The Judges

October 15, 2016 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | ART, AUSTRALIANIA | 3 Comments |

Arthur Boyd’s The Judges, Adelaide University, October 2016.

During the International Criminal Law Conference’s 30th anniversary (1985 being a banner year in many ways, like 1986) in Adelaide this year, the extremely hip organisers arranged, in their wisdom, a private viewing of Boyd’s series commissioned in 1967 by the Adelaide University.  Originally to be a series of mosaics, this proved too expensive and time-consuming, so Boyd submitted his 12 pieces of oils on board, with lead frames to add ballast.

As the lovely people from the University Collections apparatus told us, Boyd heightened his regular theme of frailty and shame in the hope that Authority figures would not fail to bear in mind that to err, and succumb to temptation, is human.  Unfortunately, when Boyd’s 12 paintings arrived from London, all done in his usual expressionist impasto style (the oil paint slapped on with both trowel and bare hands), they met with horror and hostility at the stark, cartoonish and savage manner in which Judges were depicted.Boyd4

The idea is to show judges confronting various tableaux, whereby they assume the mantle of onlookers rather than judges.BoydForest
Boyd (1920-1999) couldn’t draw a lick, but he manages to draw some cheap thrills out of his audience.


We do like his naïf homage to Gustav Klimt (above).

BoydFireSome of the judicial characters reminded me of formidable judges of the past, except they look kinder…BoydCell



  1. Reply

    Heath Ling

    October 24, 2016

    Cheap thrills is right. Hideous. Regardless of the pertinacity of his comments on judges.

  2. Reply

    Jacqui Wilson

    August 6, 2020

    I remember that Judge series hung in the uni bistro in the 90s and I spent many a Thursday evening (debating nights) staring at their complex commentary

  3. Reply

    Mike Cappo

    March 29, 2023

    Used to gaze at these in the darkness of the basement cafe in the big building/theatre across the road from Barr Smith Libary in the late 1970's. Oddly enthralling yet calming in the hell of failing exams.

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