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 William Merric Boyd  (1888 - 1959)

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Lived/Active: Australia      Known for: studio pottery, drawing, painting and sculpture

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

William Merric Boyd (24 June 1888 – 9 September 1959) was an Australian artist active as a ceramicist, painter, and sculptor. Merric Boyd is credited as the father of studio pottery in Australia; he is also known for his drawing, painting and sculpting.

A member of the famous Boyd artistic dynasty, he was the son of Arthur Merric Boyd, brother of landscapist Penleigh Boyd, writer Martin Boyd, and painter Helen Read. He married Doris Gough (Doris Boyd) and was the father of the painters Arthur Boyd and David Boyd (artist), and sculptor Guy Boyd; his daughter Mary Boyd married artist John Perceval and later Sydney Nolan.

Merric was born on 24 June 1888 at St Kilda, and attended Haileybury College and Dookie Agricultural College. Unsuccessful as a farmer at Yarra Glen, at one time he considered entering the Church of England ministry; he was the model for 'a difficult young man' in Martin Boyd's novel under that title.

However, in 1908 at Archibald McNair's Burnley Pottery, he successfully threw his first pot. His parents helped to provide a workshop for him at Murrumbeena and pottery kilns were established there in 1911 (destroyed by fire in 1926).

Merric studied at the Melbourne National Gallery School under L. Bernard Hall and McCubbin. He held his first exhibition of stoneware in Melbourne in 1912 and a second exhibition soon afterwards, and was employed by Hans Fyansch of the Australian Porcelain Works, Yarraville.

On 12 October 1915 he married Doris Lucy Eleanor Bloomfield Gough, a fellow student and potter. In May 1917 he joined the Australian Flying Corps but was discharged later in England. Before his return to Australia in September 1919 he undertook training in pottery technique at Wedgwood's, Stoke-on-Trent.

Merric produced his best works in the 1920s and 1930s. These were mostly pieces for domestic use, often decorated by Doris, and some pottery sculptures. He believed that 'the first impulse of the maker of hand-pottery is to obtain pleasure in making and decorating an article, and making that pleasure intelligible … the use of our own fauna and flora is of the first importance'. In spite of his aversion to creating art that would sell well, he worked hard to provide for his growing family. In the 1930s he was employed at the Australian Porcelain Co. Pty Ltd, Yarraville, in the manufacture of Cruffel art porcelain; he earned £4 a week. Doris worked there also on a half-time basis.

In his later years Merric became something of a recluse. He had adopted his wife's faith in Christian Science and from the 1930s read little beyond its teachings and the Bible. Subject to epileptic fits, he died at Murrumbeena on 9 September 1959. Doris died on 13 June 1960.

They were survived by their five children, all noted artists: Lucy, Arthur, Guy, David and Mary. Merric had considerable influence on younger artists. 682 of his drawings were collected and published by Christopher Tadgell as Merric Boyd Drawings (London, 1975). His portrait by his son-in-law John Perceval is one of several.

Australian Dictionary of Biography,



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