Growing Artistic Talent in the Right Environment

We are going to try sliding as gently as possible into 2021 and there is no better way than to showcase a glorious home and garden that helped spawn the prodigious talent of one of Australia's best known artistic families.

The purple rectangle below marks the spot where the Australian Boyd Dynasty lived, played, and produced some of Australia's greatest artists and their works for the better part of the early C20th.

Location of the Boyd property Sandringham, Victoria, Australia (1)

Towards the end of 2020 I was invited to visit a property which nearly 100 years ago had been the home of Arthur Merric and Minnie Boyd in Sandringham, Melbourne from 1923 - 1940. The house and garden have been lovingly restored to their original grandeur by an amazing couple - the artist Kate Stewart and her husband Adam.

The moment I walked into the grounds I was immediately drawn to the warmth - this is a happy place, an embracing place. You walk under the enormous protective branches of an Algerian Oak with only the slightest presence of a house discernible through the green canopy of this grand old tree.

Boyd property Sandingham Victoria Photo: Anne Newman

Kate Stewart is as gracious and welcoming as the garden. She and Adam have adopted this heritage protected property and taken on the custodian role determined when they purchased it in a somewhat dilapidated state to not only resuscitate life back into its veins, but eventually recreate the opportunity to have people of like creative minds visit.

You can feel the presence of the Boyd family and their artistic friends who gathered here at the constant and famous get togethers. You can hear the chatter and occasionally raised voices of the adults discussing the events of the day, of the world. The laughter of children fills every mysterious corner because this property is a child's delight. And I swear the sweet smell of the plants is mixed with the smell of oil paints.

But let me wind the clock back to the beginning of the life of this property.

The Boyd House (2)

After the Boyd family sold the property in 1940 it was regained in 1980 by Guy Boyd, grandson of Arthur Merric Boyd. Guy Boyd made additions and alterations for his family. After Guy Boyd's death in 1988 his widow, Phyllis, remained in the residence until it was sold in 2002. 2

The City of Bayside Heritage Review of the Boyd Property describes is thus:

A reasonably good example of a single storey asymmetrically-planned Edwardian Queen Anne style weatherboard villa with a Marseilles terracotta roof with terracotta cresting. Some sheds at the rear in various states of repair, which were used as an artists’ studio. The front garden is dominated by a large mature Algerian oak. 2

The house is a sheer delight with many engaging features. The pretty and enchanting entrance announces the theme of invitation.

Entrance to the Boyd Home, Sandringham, Victoria, Australia (1)

The beautiful seemingly higgledy-piggledy roof line has a couple of magical gargoyles guarding the property. One is dominant, peering down onto the driveway.

The crowning glory on the very top of the house is a viewing turret.

And from here magnificent panoramic views of Port Phillip Bay are to be had.

View from the turrett at the Boyd property Sandringham, Victoria (1)

With all that is going on in the world at the moment it is so relaxing to wander through this beautiful garden and let a gentle breeze blow away all your cares for at least a few minutes.

There is a grand expanse of lawn in the near vicinity of the house which extends from the sunroom and terrace added by Guy Boyd during his occupancy: ideal for outdoor living and entertaining.

I imagine the gathering of artists around the grounds, grouped into huddles discussing their latest artistic challenge or triumph. What do artists talk about? Are their conversations any different to other groups of people?

There is a geometic pond set into the lawn surrounded by pavers of similar ilk. This area acts as a barrier in a way to the rest of the garden which in contrast is not so well ordered.

Beyond the pond is a composite of hidden teasures down winding pathways no doubt traversed by hundreds of steps of artists deep in private creative thought.

Boyd property Sandringham Victoria Photo: Anne Newman
Boyd property Sandringham Victoria Photo: Anne Newman

The main feature in the back section of the garden is the heritage listed teatree - a living scupture of time with boughs linking back to earier times. During my visit I saw many a shadow shape of a child climbing amongst the branches.

Boyd property Sandringham Victoria Photo: Anne Newman

The configuration of the teatree branches offer up a wonderful opportunity to try your hand at sketching.

Note the interplay between the light and shade and the pattern of shapes being created by the structure of the tree. And the smell of the sea is only a breath away.

To the right hand side of the house from the front is a pretty garden containing another sculpture by Kate Stewart peeping through the foliage and where the side pathway to the back of the house is guarded by another gargoyle.

Surprisingly the architecture on this back side gives the house a completely different look.

Kate and Adam have a vision for the future for the Boyd house because they want to share the treasure they have brought back to life. One day they want to see people interested in the arts gathering in the garden to soak up the creative atmosphere, perhaps painting, perhaps sculpting or perhaps reflecting back to the past.

Boyd property Sandringham Victoria Photo: Anne Newman

I am sure Arthur Merric and Minnie would be absolutely delighted to see how well their home and garden has been restored and to know that two such fine people are now the custodians.

As I left the property after a wonderful few hours soaking up the atmosphere and talking art with Kate Stewart I could swear I heard the sounds of children's voices from high in the Algerian oak. What would they tell us about growing up part of the Boyd Dynasty?

Kate Stewart is also an artist and I will be returning to review some of her work. In the meantime, you might like to check out her website by clicking here.

2. City of Bayside Heritage Review (Revision 2), December 2006;