Posted 4 years ago
A find from Vinnies a couple of years ago is this small pin dish. It combines two famous names in Australian art: Arthur Boyd & Neil Douglas. It’s a multi-color glazed ceramic, signed in script by the artist Neil Douglas and has a title “Yarloo hunting wallaby” on the reverse. Incised on the back as well, within the clay, is A M Boyd.
It is a fairly rare piece of Australian pottery by the ARTHUR MERRIC BOYD POTTERY that produced wares from 1944 to 1962. Arthur Boyd called the pottery thus with the middle name “Merric” as a tribute to his father who taught him and his siblings the art of pottery. So few examples have survived because AMB Pottery was made of soft earthenware that shatters easily.
Life was tough for artists in post-war Australia. Commissions were scarce. The plan was to make functional items as required by the austerity measures still in place.
So, in 1944 the Arthur Merric Boyd Pottery was founded at Murrumbeena, a suburb 13 kilometres south-east of Melbourne, Victoria. Arthur Boyd and another famous Australian artist John Perceval threw the pots at Murrumbeena in a former butcher's shop opposite the train station. The wares were then taken into the city centre of Melbourne and were later decorated in a basement studio in Little Collins Street by Arthur, John Perceval & Neil Douglas. They were then returned to Murrumbeena for firing.
“They produced domestic pottery with energetic painted decoration of Australian landscape, fauna, flora and designs imitating Aboriginal art. Douglas’ work in particular expressed an early concern for the importance of the conservation of Australia’s natural environment.“ The National Gallery of Australia.
Neil Douglas (1911-2003) was quite a character. He is known as an artist and as a conservationist. He was awarded an MBE in 1973 at Government House in Melbourne and as his obituary in the Sydney Morning Herald of October 29 2003 states:
“The odd man out was Neil Douglas. This much-loved environmental artist wore a hessian suit he had woven, dyed, and tailored himself. To add insult to injury he was shoeless. His hair (which, he claimed, had not been cut for 20 years) and his beard almost obscured his quizzical, rosy, bony face. "He might have got away with it had he been an Abo," hissed one Toorak matron.
Neil Douglas received his MBE for services to art and conservation. His contribution to our Australian civilisation was, arguably, greater than any other of the Queen's chosen few at Government house that day.
Neil was one of a kind. He battled government bureaucracy, vested interest and public indifference to preserve the integrity of the bush.
He was a gardener of genius, a lobbyist of pragmatic skill and an artist of talent. He was a proselytiser who constructed a unique lifestyle; a way of living which would, he hoped, be emulated by a generation of "drop-outs" - or, as he preferred to designate the phenomenon, "drop-ins"….. "