Iconic Australian painter Arthur Boyd’s property and the archives of irreplaceable letters and photographs are under threat from the south coast fires.
Iconic Australian painter Arthur Boyd’s property and the archives of irreplaceable letters and photographs are under threat from the south coast fires.

Iconic Australian painter’s legacy under bushfire threat

Bushfires continue to threaten Bundanon, the historic Shoalhaven property given to the nation by artist Arthur Boyd and his wife Yvonne before Boyd's death in 1999.

Irreplaceable archives on the beautiful property are currently unable to be retrieved.

Bundanon Trust CEO Deborah Ely said the situation regarding the property was "nerve-racking", particularly with dangerous conditions forecast for Friday.

She said no staff remained at Bundanon as the RFS had told them to leave.

Bundanon Trust staff remove the paintings of Arthur Boyd to protect them from the Currowan fire. Picture: Facebook
Bundanon Trust staff remove the paintings of Arthur Boyd to protect them from the Currowan fire. Picture: Facebook

Ms Ely, who lives in North Nowra, was very concerned for the fate of Bundanon's archives of letters, photographs "and a whole lot of historical data that's used by curators all over the country".

"It's the most significant archive of the Boyd family in the country," she said.

Bundanon staff removed about $40 million worth of Boyd family artworks from the property last Friday and sent them to safekeeping in climate-controlled storage off site.

However firefighters continue to manage fires on the property and access to the site by staff has been restricted.

Ms Ely did gain access to Bundanon on Thursday morning but she was not able to remove the archives or the remaining $3 million worth of artworks at the property.

"We are concerned about (those) works," Ms Ely said.

Bundanon in the Shoalhaven region is under threat from flames.
Bundanon in the Shoalhaven region is under threat from flames.

"We have been able to visit the sites this morning and all built asset is safe," Ms Ely said.

"We plan to relocate more artworks and the archive early next week, aiming for Tuesday first thing.

"We are not able to do more than sight things at the moment as fires are still being managed by RFS on the properties. And tomorrow's weather is hot and windy - very dangerous."

Bundanon Trust incorporates the former Boyd home of Bundanon as well as Riversdale, which belonged to the late Sir Sidney Nolan. Boyd and Nolan rank among Australia's very best known artists and their Shoalhaven legacy is usually open to the public and used for artist residencies as well as many other cultural activities.

Arthur and Yvonne from the Bundanon archive. Photo: Bundanoon Trust Archive
Arthur and Yvonne from the Bundanon archive. Photo: Bundanoon Trust Archive

Ironically, Bundanon Trust is planning a new development on the properties which would see its collections and archives stored safely underground.

Ms Ely said a program of "cultural burning" on the Bundanon Trust properties by local indigenous people of the Nowra Firesticks group "has afforded us a fair bit of protection" in the current fires.

Source: NASA Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS) satellite data. MODIS active fire location represents the centre of a 1km pixel that is flagged by the algorithm as containing one or more fires within the pixel. When map is zoomed out, the size of the markers provide location only and may give a false impression of total area affected. Zoom in and pan for a more accurate view of areas where fires are active, or have been active since November 1. Isolated fire pixels may reflect fire detection not related to bushfires.

"They did burn a lot of ground fuel off over hundreds of acres," she said.

"It's quite different from backburning. It's quite a specific practice. It gives you the benefit of protection against catastrophic fires. The RFS are very interested in what they do."

A dairy herd that ran on Bundanon has been removed, Ms Ely said.

"We will take the rest of the works and the archive off site as soon as we can. Smoke is exceptionally damaging to artworks. More than people realise."

Arthur Boyd, Man launching boat, 1940. Picture: Bundanon Trust Collection
Arthur Boyd, Man launching boat, 1940. Picture: Bundanon Trust Collection

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