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Australian art

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(Illustration for Peter Porter's poem 'The Narcissus emblems')



Arthur Boyd

Australia, England

24 Jul 1920 - 24 Apr 1999


Arthur Boyd and Peter Porter, an Australian poet who has lived in England since 1951, collaborated on two books before the publication of 'Narcissus' in 1984 - 'Jonah' (1973) and 'The lady and the unicorn' (1975). They were introduced to each other by John Rosenthal, a publisher at Secker and Warburg, who suggested they collaborate on 'Jonah'.

Porter began the 'Narcissus' poems in 1976 and completed them in 1979. He wrote in 1987: "Only when I first began to work with Arthur Boyd did I find that there is a fulfilling way of collaborating, and that it requires each artist to go his own way, the resultant works being counterpointed rather than harmonised". (Hendrik Kolenberg, 'Works on paper' in Barry Pearce, 'Arthur Boyd retrospective', AGNSW, 1993, pg. 163-64). The story is set on the banks of the Shoalhaven River on the South Coast of NSW, near Boyd's home and studio at Bundanon.

In this print, etching and drypoint are added to with lines made using a technique developed by Boyd in 1968-69, whereby a solution of kerosene and oil is applied to the plate with a brush, to remove the ground., resulting in a deeply bitten line. This is combined with aquatint and burnishing to create mood and subtlety of tone. Boyd made a series of 24 prints on the theme; there are two related works in the Gallery's collection, both first state proofs.

Hendrik Kolenberg and Anne Ryan, 'Australian prints from the Gallery's collection', AGNSW, 1998


Other Titles

The Narcissus emblems

XIV The Narcissus emblems



Media category


Materials used

etching, aquatint, printed in black ink on white Arches paper


artist's proof for edition of 25


60.5 x 42.6 cm platemark; 79.4 x 59.2 cm sheet

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Anonymous gift 1993


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Arthur Boyd

Artist profile

Works in the collection


Referenced in 7 publications


Darleen Bungey, Arthur Boyd: A life, Sydney, 2007, 510, 513-515. NOTE: General reference on Narcissus series.

Dr Ursula Hoff, The art of Arthur Boyd, 'Part III: 1971-1983', pg 64-86, London, 1986, (illus.). plate 178; dated 1983; titled 'The Narcissus Emblems: '... eaten myself off the water's top'

Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, Sydney, 1999, 197 (illus.).

Hendrik Kolenberg and Anne Ryan, Australian prints from the Gallery's collection, Sydney, 1998, 104 (illus.). 88

Barry Pearce, Arthur Boyd retrospective, Sydney, 1993, 156. 185

Peter Porter, Narcissus, London, 1984, 31 (illus.).

Gavin Wilson, Rivers + Rocks : select works of Arthur Boyd & Brett Whiteley, ‘Rivers + Rocks’, pg. 9-60, New South Wales, 2001, 4 (colour illus.), 20, 32. NOTE: Collection of Bundanon Trust; Titled 'XIV The Narcissus emblems'