ARTHUR BOYD (1920- 1999) The Tribute Money, c. 1950 – 52 Glazed ceramic tile 33.0 x 44.0 cm
ACU is delighted to have acquired an outstanding piece of art that represents a major piece of Australian art history and presents a concept of considerable theological interest and symbolism. Arthur Boyd’s The Tribute Money is a distinctive work painted on a ceramic tile. It depicts the iconic scene from Matthew in which Jesus instructs Peter to retrieve a coin from a fish’s mouth to settle the temple tax that was imposed by the Romans. This notable biblical episode has been represented several times, including a well-known rendition by Italian renaissance painter, Masaccio. Boyd’s captivating depiction captures the drama of the moment when the coin is being surreptitiously passed between the subdued figures, and describes it with a brilliant glaze that bestows a stained glass quality worthy of leadlight.
Boyd is admired for his mastery of many mediums, and ceramics comprised a significant part of his output. His father, Merric Boyd began a pottery studio at the family home in the Melbourne suburb of Murrumbeena, and Arthur learned the craft from an early age, later forming AMB pottery with fellow artists John Perceval and Peter Herbst. Initially serving to satisfy an urgent need for crockery following the Second World War, the product from this group grew in stature and in the case of Boyd began to define some of his most enduring themes, including those from his biblical period.
The ceramic is further enhanced by the artist’s self-framing, comprising dark pewter strip edging on a wooden backing secured with metal tacks. ACU Art Curator Caroline Field says “The Tribute Money is an important example of Arthur Boyd’s work, distinguished by its subject and vibrant translucent treatment, and represents valuable Australian cultural history through its provenance, as demonstrated by the attached labels on the reverse from a respected early Australian art gallery.” This exciting and important acquisition will form an integral part of a forthcoming exhibition showcasing highlights from the university’s diverse and growing art collection.
Caroline Field Curator ACU Art Collection
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