Study for triptych: Waiting at Styx 1988
oil on canvas; triptych
Gift of Stephen Johns, through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program, in memory of his mother (Freda Johns), grandmother (Kamilla Koppel) and aunt (Stella Golden), 2019
Reproduced with the permission of the Bundanon Trust
This major work is allied to an extensive series of paintings commenced by Boyd in 1987 under the title Australian scapegoat that explored the constructions of Australian identity in the lead up to the 1988 bicentenary of the arrival of the First Fleet. Like many paintings in the series, this work combines highly expressive figuration and intense colour with references to Australian landscape, military history and mythological gods to describe the fragile concepts of nationhood and the futility of conflict.
In Greek myth the Styx is the river that divides the underworld from the world of the living. Here we see Boyd’s recurrent depiction of a favoured Shoalhaven River landscape that incorporates a gathering of human and human-animal hybrid bathers on the foreshore.