In Boat builders, Eden Arthur Boyd depicts activities within the landscape of Eden, a coastal New South Wales town, close to the Victorian border. Eden is known for its forestry and fishing industries, as well as for its beautiful natural landscape. Framed by a bush setting, the boat builders in this image construct their vessel. Boyd has included a number of boathouses and workshops in the painting, as well as the fishing wharf of Eden’s Twofold Bay. In the distance are Lookout Point Lighthouse and the distinctive profile of Mount Imlay.
Boat builders, Eden is one of a number of postwar paintings by Boyd likely to have been made at Open Country, the Boyd’s family home at Murrumbeena on the eastern outskirts of Melbourne. Elements in the work are inspired by the sixteenth-century Flemish painter Pieter Bruegel. Boyd had seen reproductions of Bruegel’s biblical paintings, such as The gloomy day 1565 and Tower of Babel 1563, in the State Library of Victoria in Melbourne and was interested in Bruegel’s depiction of historical subjects and stories within a contemporary landscape. The subject of Boat builders, Edenis a reminder of the Old Testament story of Noah’s Ark, where Noah’s virtuous behaviour saved himself and his family from a great flood. Boyd’s image is also a response to the rebuilding of lives and lands that took place following the devastation of the Second World War.
In contrast to the painterly approach of Landscape with grazing sheep 1937 or the thick and expressive application of paint in The hunter I 1944,Boyd used the more refined paint medium of egg tempera in this work. The semi-transparent pigments have been carefully layered over each other to create a fine, shimmering surface.