Boyd’s Featurism

Robin Boyd began describing his return to Australia by air in the late 1950s with the sun’s rising over the Arafura Sea:

Outside the little oval window the grey void is gradually smudged across the middle with deep tan like a nicotine stain. The smudge grows lighter, becomes an appalling orange, then lemon. Streaks of pink break free from it and float into the grey above.

Darwin appears as a little peninsula with a splatter of white roofs, and the predominant colouring of the land emerges from the grey. It is a dusty combination of ochres and puces.

On route to the east coast, the passenger passes

over country which is burnt brown and patchy, like a tender sunburnt skin, with sections of darker brown and blood red and blisters of lighter ochre. The palest suggestion of an olive tint is as near to green as this northern landscape goes.

The Never-Never is “hard, raw, barren, and blazing” yet “deceptively soft about its water-colour tints of pinks and umbers”; its trees are “blue-grey” on a “red” field. The red centre blows “a wind of oven intensity” into the cities, just as the outback “colours all folk-lore and the borrowed aboriginal mythology”.[1]

Boyd had not ended his second page of The Australian Ugliness before shifting to his theme. At Darwin terminal, he sighted

numerous primary colours in paintwork and brilliant plastic chair coverings … Here is a good introduction to Australian ways, and it is a cheerful and compact example of the visual style which rules everywhere that man has made his mark on this continent: the style of Featurism.[2]

He defined Featurism as

not simply a decorative technique, it starts in concepts and extends upwards through the parts of the numerous trimmings. It may be defined as the subordination of the essential whole and the accentuation of selected separate features.

Boyd went on to survey the sprawl of Featurism during the post-war years, spicing his narrative with moral injunction and aesthetic condemnation. His strengths in this book were to carry his analysis beyond design and style across to Featurism’s sources in the economy, the human condition and nature, all as experienced in Australia. His handling of each element in this triad limited his effort to show how the three interacted.

Boyd had had to learn his way into recognising Featurism. His F-word had not appeared in Australia’s Home in 1952 when he once or twice used “feature” in its everyday sense, grouping these examples together as “Stylism”, or relating them to “Eclecticism” as a design principle.[3] Architects had provided precedents, whether cast-iron lacework or veneer. In Australia’s Home, Boyd had emphasised the cultural import of the veneer saw, which, after 1867, encouraged a surface appeal in place of the qualities of solid timbers.[4] Yet, he did not integrate that material practice with Featurism as a mentality. Instead, he played with words, linking the good and the true with the beautiful: “Most of the Australian veneer has been applied in the name of beauty, and most of it gave to its designer and owner a brief moment of pleasure, like any bad habit.”[5] Despite such side-stepping, Boyd broke from his previous notions. A less fertile intellect would have reduced Featurism to a moment within Stylism or Eclecticism.

That there was something phoney in the state of design had been argued by John Ruskin and William Morris who stimulated Australian architects to present critiques out of local experience. At the 1898 Congress of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), “the panjandrum of Sydney architecture”, James Nagle, again pointed out that the failure to express the “lightness and sinewy strength” appropriate to iron or steel constructions had resulted in “architectural frauds of the worst kind”. The load-bearing structures were covered with “veneers of stone or terra cotta” that were, in turn, ornamented with “details of historic styles distorted in proportions”.[6]

Two days later, Howard Joseland addressed the Architectural Section on “The Grotesque in Modern Developments of the Picturesque”. Joseland confined his remarks to Australia’s domestic architecture, condemning its “bride-cake” flaunting of wealth. As in the Renaissance, a “grotesque of ‘unrest’ and confusion of styles” had “run riot”. For him, the picturesque pleased the eye without aspiring to grandeur. “The ease with which the more ornamental features of a building may be multiplied” meant that many suburban houses looked as though an amateur had tried to fit “a variety of features”, “fads” and “eccentricities” into a kind of plan before working “in some pet bit of design”. Joseland called on his unhappy profession to recognise that “architecture … should be a natural expression, not only in general conception, but in detail, of the requirements of the times in which we live”.[7]

At the 1902 AAAS Congress, John Sulman carried Joseland’s disgust at the “indiscriminate piling up of features” into “a tilt at the ordinary drawing-room, which is crammed with knick-knacks … It is inartistic, as the eye is absolutely confused and bewildered by the multiplicity of petty objects” available in “the era of cheap frivolities”. Sulman called on Australians to emulate the Japanese, “the most artistic race of the world”, by displaying one work of art at a time.[8]

Ornamentalism for decoration’s sake on the exteriors of individual buildings had provoked Nagle and Joseland. The President of the Institute of Architects of New South Wales, J. B. Barlow, feared a loss of inner-city precincts, such as the picturesqueness bequeathed to Sydney by its “narrow crooked streets”. He proposed the appointment of experts to a Council-General of Public Buildings, as in Paris.[9]

Thirty years on, in 1929, the arbiters of visual taste in Melbourne picked up Barlow’s concern about streetscapes. A number of new city buildings were neither sympathetic to their environs nor in keeping with English traditions. The painter Arthur Streeton joined in dismissing the State Theatre, on Flinders Street, as a “Confection in Saracenics”.[10] The “advertising cupidity” of the cinema proprietor combined with the “individual caprice” of the architect to spoil an entire block. The facades and interiors of Movie Palaces complemented the excess of emotion that made people such as Streeton scorn motion pictures, especially from Hollywood. Once more, the solution was to call for the rule of experts who, by this time, were shadowed by Mussolini’s subordinating the Greek ideal of individualism to the Roman concept of community.[11]

“No junk” cried G. H. Garnett in the September 1929 Gibsonia Gazette when promoting “Colour in Furnishing and Decoration”. Since he dismissed “futuristic accomplishments”, Garnett accepted that Australians were stuck with styles left over from the Victorian era. Despite this starting point, he rhapsodised about a Californian bungalow “with a grey, black and orange living room, touched with emerald green, and from there into an emerald green, black and white sun parlour; and through the opposite doorway into a brilliant blue, black and canary dining-room.” Two more paragraphs exulted in the owners’ disposition of colour to compensate for the want of good pictures. Colour accents could dispel mediocrity only after a clearing out of bric-a-brac and curiosities: “the clutter of trivial and futile objects are mute declarations of the insincerity of their creator’s pretensions to good taste and refinement in other decorations”. The Japanese – “our artistic peers” - showed the way by highlighting one object at a time.[12]

Thus, “features”, whether indoors and out, were not peculiar to the years between the writing of Boyd’s two books. Indeed, In October 1949, the organizers of a design exhibition entitled “Yesterday, To-day, Tomorrow” could poke fun at a floral toilet from the 1890s but “had the greatest difficulty in filling even the ‘To-day’ sections with inoffensive products”.[13] What was different about the 1950s that helped Boyd move from stray remarks about “features” to crystallising “Featurism”? 

The short-hand answer is that do-it-yourself building, fibro and plastics created a new context. One half of all new homes were built, in part, by their owners. One half of all new dwellings completed in New South Wales during 1956 were of fibro. Some householders had neither the time nor the money to add features of any kind. Others applied features to distract from their “often utilitarian and unimaginative” designs.[14]. When they did so, plastics materials were both inexpensive and offered more and stronger colours. Even with a growth of installment credit from £70m. in 1950 to £472m. by 1959,[15] Australians could not afford all of the private affluence of Galbraith’s society until after1962, by which time import controls had been lifted.

Boyd’s identification of “Featurism” owed more to these material factors than to the opinions of his architectural predecessors outlined above. Even his bower-bird researches seem not to have attracted him to these controversies. Rather, the strands of prior criticism raise a more intriguing question: to what extent had several decades of meretricious construction and mendacious design taught the public to embrace a disjuncture between structure and surface as a mark of aesthetic excellence?

The distinctive elements in the phenomena that Boyd came to perceive as contributing to Featurism can be delineated further through a contrast with the concept of “kitsch”. The New York critic Clement Greenberg had counterpoised kitsch to an avant-garde in 1939. In their original formulations, Featurism and “kitsch” worked differently from each other. Extreme Featurists could not leave well alone, concealing any trace of the radical beneath layers of decoration. The manufacturers of kitsch, on the other hand, sapped the radical out of the avant-garde:

The precondition for kitsch … is the availability close at hand of a fully matured cultural tradition … [which] kitsch can take advantage of for its own ends. It borrows from it devices, tricks, stratagems, rules of thumb, themes, converts them into a system, and discards the rest. … This is what is really meant when it is said that the popular art and literature of today were once the daring, esoteric art and literature of yesterday. Of course, no such thing is true. What is meant is that when enough time has elapsed the new is looted for new “twists”, which are then watered down and served up as kitsch.[16]

Greenberg’s insights have suffered the fate that he warned lay in await for all radical ideas. Hence, “kitsch” has been reduced to a synonym for vulgar, just as Boyd’s Featurism was soon equated with ugliness and “outrage”.[17]

Greenberg in 1939 was drifting away from an equalitarian politics towards an hieratic aesthetic. Despite Boyd’s often acerbic, though rarely cynical judgements, he never surrendered the democratic impulse apparent in his newspaper advice for small homebuilders. He always wanted for as many Australians as possible the designs that he took to be the best.[18]

Familial, professional and public experiences contributed to Boyd’s revolt against the taste being foisted on the masses. The difficulties he encountered in explaining why Featurism could triumph were another strand in the cultural condition that he sought to unravel. An acolyte limited that matter to a cry of despair:

Observing the “Glencrag” apartments looming grotesquely over Leichhardt St, Brisbane, and counting the variety of colours, textures and shapes: horrified wonderment turns to despair, and the only question left is “why?”.[19]

“Why?” is always a tougher ask than “what?” or even “how?” Because Boyd knew that he had to respond in terms of time and place, he offered a three-part invention: first, a booming economy; secondly, the European settlers’ reaction to a hostile environment; and thirdly, an existential maladjustment to the previous pair.

Boyd avoided several difficulties in his treatment by slipping back and forth between the three, covering his tracks with a prose Featurism. For instance, he concluded The Australian Ugliness by declaring that Featurism began “with fear of reality, denial of the need for every day environment to reflect the heart of the human problem, satisfaction with veneer and cosmetic effects. It ends in betrayal of the element of love and a chill near the root of national self-respect”. This flourish cannot conceal - let alone bridge - the gap between Lawrence’s psycho-social and Stephensen’s spirit of place.

Boyd’s Featurism was not confined to his prose style. His campaigns for “good design” had opened his Stegbar windows for the Featurists. Foremost had been his commitment to pre-fabrication in domestic architecture; secondly, he championed innovative house plans against municipal building inspectors; thirdly, he designed a brightly coloured “Sunshine” house for a Homes show in 1951; finally, his Japanese aesthetic could be turned into Featurism, from an avant-garde purification to an overcoat of kitsch.

Boyd remained utopian about the factory-made house as he advocated ever more of the standardisation that had allowed decent dwellings to become affordable, thereby overcoming the shortages and slums that had been the prime target of urban planners during his formative years.[20] Yet this simplification continued to deprive more workers than cabinet makers of fulfilling labour, thus laying the foundations for the repackaging of individual creativity as a glamourous personality. Boyd’s commitment to prefabrication helped him to understand that patterns of consumption followed the dictates of mass production. Hence, he argued that the ugliness of Featurism would be combated more by exemplary design than through attacks on “taste”.[21]

Secondly, Boyd enthused at Sidney Ancher’s 1947 victory over the Warringah Shire Council, which had wanted to conceal a flat roof in order to maintain the “pleasant and pleasing” character of its suburb. Boyd attacked this wish to uphold individualism as a kind of conformity to a social environment rather than as display of inventiveness. Excited by “the rights of the individual to roof according to his conscience”,[22] he ignored the opportunities that the court case gave to those individualists, personal or corporate, who wanted to flaunt their egos or decorate a pure form for a quick return on their investment.[23] His fondness for Ancher’s and Harry Seidler’s clean Modern designs overwhelmed his apprehension that what he was up against was not bad designs but corporate promotion of them. 

Our understanding of the interplay between developments towards flatness in fine art and their mass production in home decoration is not likely to be advanced by chasing after which came first, or pronouncing which is the more meretricious. The spirit of the time feeds off a material reproduction of its hieratic elements. Greenberg’s kitsch installed a visual demotic from which more artists accepted his avant-garde precepts as the norm; succeeding generations could carry them further, whether into Minimalism or POP. Meyer Shapiro appreciated the disjunctures that mark the making of art and taste in any period:

The style of Louis XV, in the wonderfully refined and elegant rococo objects of that manner, whether buildings, furniture, textiles, porcelain, or sculpture and painting, instantly conveys to us the quintessence of the aristocratic spirit of that moment; yet much of this was created by artisans who lived another life than their patrons and had other ideals. At least, it was not their own thoughts and outlook they wished to express, but the thoughts and outlook of the dominant group which could scarcely produce such works.[24]

The third stimulus that Boyd gave to Featurism was the riot of primaries in the “Sunshine House”, which he had built for the Jubilee Better Homes and Housekeeping Exhibition in Melbourne in 1951:

colour is a vital factor in the home which is totally ignored in the vast majority of cream-lined houses.

Of course, the “Sunshine House” colors offend … because they are strong and determined and express a point of view instead of a neutral, timid evasion.

If you don’t like any of the sometimes startling colours in this house, do not immediately reject the principle of using colour in strength. Rather, consider the same room decorated with some of your favourite colours at the same tonal strength.[25]

Boyd’s reviling of the Cream Australia policy blinded him to the possible consequences of giving the seal of good housekeeping to a bazaar of colours which merchandisers could exploit when “loose coins in every pocket jingle eagerly to be spent on novel, exciting surface effects”.[26]

Boyd’s final contribution to his despised “Featurism” was even less intentional. On the one hand, the habit of Victorian clutter had instilled a preference for adding bits to pieces, which led to living room Featurism. On the other, the proffered antidote of a Japanese aesthetic could justify the home decorator’s sticking one treasured object in a prominent place, thereby creating a higher-form of Featurism.


Time, Place and Transition
When Boyd called his opening chapter “The Descent into Chaos”, he meant a visual befuddlement rather than the economic, social and political crises that had provoked the revolt against the masses between wars. The chaos from battlefields, depression and revolutions was matched by a mess of commerce when the architect-artist John D. Moore gave the title “Chaos” to his 1923 depiction of the suburban sprawl where a gasometer breaks like a sea monster through an ocean of terracotta tiles and a tangle of wires. By contrast, three years later, Moore praised the streamlining of aircraft and automobiles, embracing, as would Boyd, “functional form” to tame wildlife in suburbia.[27]

After the Second World War, material shortages obliged homemakers to grab at whatever goods became available, a transitory circumstance which supplied the austerity in Boyd’s vision of Australia as “Austerica”. The backend of that neologism pointed to the affluence flaunted from across the Pacific.

Lawrence had left Australia for the United States in 1922 obsessed with a threat from the masses, whether coloured or white. Boyd flew back to Australia in the late 1950s fearful that the worst of U.S. commercialism would swamp the best of Australian creativity. In Boyd’s 1967 Boyer Lectures, Artificial Australia, he announced that he “would rather a first-hand Australian failure than another second-hand success”.[28] In the floodtide of assimilationist policies, few Australian residents doubted that they could recognise what was “Australian”. Boyd was less sure that those accepted definitions dealt in realities. He had rounded off Australia’s Home in 1950 by lamenting that the Wild Colonial Boy was selling used cars. The musical Reedy River in 1953, like Russel Ward’s The Australian Legend in 1958, read the funeral rites over the bush Australian they celebrated. Modernisation moved ever more jobs to the cities. In Summer of the Seventeenth Doll (1955), Roo had to chase work in a paint factory because he was over the hill as a cane-cutter.

Recurrent squeezes on credit from panics over the balance of payments meant that the 1950s were a boom only if compared with the fifty years after the bust of the 1890s. Boyd reported that that earlier expansion had been expressed in “equally intense, but heavier, richer colours in wall paper and gilded plaster”.[29] He did not ask why two booms summoned different treatments of colour and décor. He could have done so by bringing in other elements with which he was familiar, namely, mass production and prefabrication. In the 1950s, these technologies operated within different economic structures from the boom of the 1880s. More of the commodities were becoming available to a larger portion of the populace. In Australian Ugliness, he alleged that “[s]trident colour is a direct popular cultural expression of easy living. It is a reflection of the money in the modern pocket”.[30] Hence, he knew that Featurism had not emerged fully formed from Austerica’s hip-pocket.

When Boyd perceived the Featurism as “a symptom of maladjustment in modern society’,[31] he was pointing to some canker in the social order, not a pandemic of personal flaws. Yet he did not adopt a coherent critique of either modern society, or any of the maladjustments it generated.[32] He gave little attention to whether the needs of oligopolising capitals were displacing satisfaction with the superficial. Greenberg had picked up enough historical materialism from the swirl of radical ideas across 1930s Manhattan to assert that the dynamics of capitalism had erased the conditions for making folk culture. Businesses responded to the cultural vacuum that had been created under the mechanising of work by supplying commodity culture as diversion. Kitsch could be “turned out mechanically” as “an integral part of our productive system”. Boyd’s Fabianism offered no comparable guide to capitalism, especially in the Cold War atmosphere of 1950s Melbourne. He had been very daring to be as critical as he was of consumerist values and U.S. influences.[33]

During Boyd’s first study tour overseas in 1950 he had learnt that “[e]very country has its own special habits in vulgarity”, the Scandinavians included.[34] This recognition meant that he had to ponder why Featurism flourished “more than ever at this place?” By way of explanation, Boyd slid from one supposed universal, that of a human condition, to another, that of humankind’s place in the natural world, though he attached this universal to Australian elements:  

Perhaps the explanation is that man, sensing that the vastness of the landscape will mock any object that his handful of fellows can make here, avoids anything that might be considered a challenge to nature. The greater and fiercer the natural background, the prettier and pettier the artificial foreground: this way there are no unflattering comparisons, no loss of face.[35]

Instead of challenging the Dead Heart or the Red Centre, the settlers had perched on the periphery, clinging to the littoral for living space, but dependent on the Outback for their mythopoeic. Demographic fact found its equivalent in decorative flaw. By treating physical reality as a metaphor, Boyd blocked his explanation rather than advancing it.[36] For Boyd, nature was a static external, not the subject of labours that transformed those who worked on it.

The soft spots in Boyd’s account of Featurism become clearer by bringing into single focus his discussions of nature and of paints and plastics. [37] Despite giving numerous instances of how plastics provided vehicles for colour as the standard bearer of Featurism, he never articulated its linkages to what the trade welcomed as “pretty polly”.[38] When he was not taking the connection between colours and plastics for granted, he seemed overwhelmed by “the horror, the horror”, as in his portrait of an Australian home where bright plastics had a room of their own in which to go feral:

the red roses in the central bowl are a softer plastic, the pepper and salt shakers are the hardest of all. And, soft or hard, all this plastic is featured in the most vivid primary pillar-box red, butter yellow, sky blue, pea green, innocent of any idea of secondary or tertiary tints, and all strikingly prominent against the pale, hot pastel tints of the flat plastic paint on the walls; all vibrating like a chromatrope beneath the economical brilliance of the fluorescent tubes on the ceiling.[39]

By 1967, Boyd was deploring that

Plastic flowers, which seemed only a passing joke in 1959, are now a universal menace. Something of the tragic artistic vacuum which is at the core of the Australian ugliness is symbolised in the cheap, vivid, unearthly colours of the imitation annuals blooming in plastic imitation cut-glass vases on Australian mantelpieces.[40]

Artificial blooms were nothing new.[41] Their novelty as plastics was to intensify the hues and extend the durability compared with paper or fabric ones. Boyd never considered that roses and lawns were also a mark of Featurism in his sense of challenging nature only to the extent of prettifying it. The tidiness of the 1920s garden path was as much an instance of settlers’ bowing down before the untamed continent as was their “Faith in paint”.[42]

To criticise Boyd for not delving more deeply into the sources of Australia’s 1950s Featurism cannot deny his achievement. Boyd was out there, almost by himself, even in his own profession, which the academic architectural historian, J. M. Freeland, characterised for its “anarchy” and “no philosophy” in the early 1950s.[43] Australia was not an intellectual desert, yet the watering holes were still few and far between, especially for anyone who wanted to examine the middle-class on its own terms.[44] On that terrain, novelists such as his uncle Martin were still a rich source, though kept pure by the censors. Boyd had no Lewis Mumford against whom to sharpen his perceptions. In asking a jovial English visitor, John Betjeman,[45] to pen the “Foreword”, Boyd preferred a “second-hand success” to a “first-hand failure”.

Robin Boyd became less certain than many Australians that first-hand successes were likely beyond the playing fields. While he was deploring Featurism in 1960, Prime Minister Menzies could assure a reporter for Time that “[w]hen I was a boy there was a distinctly colonial flavour to Australia. Now we are developing an outlook peculiar to Australia. We are becoming more significant”.[46] In the same week, an immigrant correspondent for several European publications, Egon Varro, alleged that Australians measured such significance by proving that everything they did was the biggest in the South Hemisphere.[47]

Before The Australian Ugliness appeared, a new round of creativity was being headlined by Johnny O’Keeffe, Patrick White, Judith Wright and Sid Nolan. During the Sixties, literature, performance, film and fine music budded, even blossomed, until commentators spoke of a New Nationalism. Australians published more about ourselves, from The Lucky Country (1964) onwards. De-dominisation proceeded through the Menzies years until his 1964 wish to call the decimal currency “the Royal” appeared preposterous.[48] “Home” no longer meant the United Kingdom. Bernard Smith proposed that the hand-me-down failure, the “Queen Anne” villa, be re-branded a first-hand success as “Federation Style”.[49] The British Garrison of bishops, editors and headmasters, which Stephensen excoriated, had mostly departed, although the professoriate remained British, when not North American. 

Instead of emulating Vance Palmer’s cool reappraisal in 1957 of the legend of the Nineties, Robin Boyd let fly at the 1960s with his nightmarish The Great Great Australian Dream (1972). The “world conscious Australian”, Boyd recorded, knew that his fellows were not searching for a national identity but were in flight from its reality as “a protruding beer belly and a receding brain”[50], characteristics that Max Harris disparaged as Ockerism.[51] Here Boyd was close to Lawrence’s view of Australians as empty. Boyd’s earlier critique of suburbia had coincided with the satire of Barry Humphries. Sandy Stone’s Cream-and-Green Australia policy gave way to an era of plastics well before Edna’s dress sense epitomised Featurism. If Boyd became angry because Australians would not learn quickly enough to resist the vile aspects of mass production, Humphries turned nasty because they absorbed them so quickly. Boyd voiced frustrated hope against the resentful nostalgia of Humphries.

[1] Boyd, Australian Ugliness, p. 22; see my article on Boyd, Age, 2 February 2002, Extra, p. 6.
[2] Boyd, Australian Ugliness, pp. 22-23.
[3] Boyd, Australia’s Home, pp. 95, 236-39.
[4] Boyd, Australia’s Home, pp. 47, 74 and 102.
[5] Boyd, Australian Ugliness, p. 182.
[6] Report of the Seventh Congress of the AAAS, 1898, pp. 994-5; J. M. Freeland, Architecture in Australia, Penguin, Ringwood, 1972, pp. 199-202.
Historic Environment, 2 (2), 1982, pp. 45-51, republished an article on “The Australian Home” from the 20 December 1890 issue of the Building and Engineering Journal.
[7] Report of the Seventh Congress of the AAAS, 1898, pp. 1009-11; see also Joseland’s “Domestic Architecture in Australia’, Centennial Magazine, August 1890, pp. ????
One result of putting these precepts into the practice was the “Federation” house, then known as “Queen Anne”.
[8] John Sulman “The Twentieth Century House”, AAAS Report, 1902, pp. 676-77.
[9] Report of the Seventh Congress of the AAAS, 1898, pp. ??????

[10] Argus, 19 October 1929, p. 7; see Ross Thorne, Picture Palace Architecture in Australia, Sun-Academy, South Melbourne, 1976; in the 1930s, cinemas became a means of introducing Australians to art deco.
[11] B&C, (Melb.), 28 October 1929, p. 3, 11 November 1929, p. 3; Argus, 2 November 1929, p. 18.
[12] Gibsonia Gazette, September 1929, pp. 4-5.
[13] Architecture, January 1950, p. 19.
[14] Hardware Journal, June 1957, p. 70.
[15] Report of the Committee of Economic Enquiry, II, AGPS, Canberra, 1965, p. 958.
[16] Clement Greenberg, Art and Culture, Thames & Hudson, London, 1973, pp. 10-11.
Architecture could rarely be avant-garde in Greenberg’s sense because its practices are tied to government or commercial commissions for the mass produced, cf Bernard Smith, Modernism’s History, UNSW Press, Sydney, 1998, pp. 100-01.
[17] “Australian Outrage” was the title of an exhibition arranged by Sydney architects in 1966.
[18] Robin Boyd shared some of his uncle Martin’s attachment to an aristocracy of moral behaviour, which both liked to pretend was not bound to conventions of class based on property or family name. Robin was more Austral and less Briton.
[19] Cross-Section, 121, November 1962, p. 3.

[20] Walkabout, January 1959, p. 12; Boyd, Australian Ugliness, chapter 5; see also Gilbert Herbert, The Dream of the Factory-Made House, Walter Gropius and Konrad Wachsmann, MIT Press, Boston, 1985.
[21] Alastair Greig suggested that since Boyd did not blame one group more than any other for “Featurism”, he found it “impossible to identify the source of the problem or any agent of transformation”, The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of, MUP, Carlton, 1995, p. 154.
[22] Boyd, Australia’s Home, pp. 207-10. This claim was as close to Ayn Rand’s Fountainhead as Boyd came. In a return to Ortega and Benda, Greenberg warned that when “the plebian finds courage … to voice his opinions openly … revolvers and torches begin to be mentioned in the same breath as culture … the statue-smashing commences”, p. 17.

[23] Greenberg’s avant-garde is among the Formalesque’s contributions to both kitsch and Featurism. If art is genuine only when it imitates the effects of art, then once those effects are detached from representation they become more readily available for purposes that Greenberg despised. Equally, one could ask whether Featurism was Post-Modernism avant la lettre.
A related contribution came in the late 1920 with changes to domestic decor. First, as furnishing fabrics became brighter in tone they moved from elaborate designs to a single colour. Next, paints displaced wallpapers: “Laboured detail has gone, and design is often expressed only by skillful manipulation of colour and surfaces”. The paints used for these effects became known as “plastic”, not because of their composition, but for their achievement of texture without replicating wood grain, marble or stone. Paint was being itself, not contributing to an illusion of flora; D&P, January 1929, pp. 94-96; March 1929, pp. 157-60; June 1929, p. 258; July 1929, p. 275.

[24] Meyer Shapiro, Romanesque Art, Chatto & Windus, London, 1977, pp. 2-3.
Shapiro knew that Marx had made a parallel point about the connections between the intellectual representatives of a class and those who occupy its position in the relations of production:
What makes them representatives of the petty bourgeoisie is the fact that in their minds they do not get beyond the limits which the latter do not get beyond in life, that they are consequently driven, theoretically, to the same problems and solutions to which material interest and social position drive the latter in practice. Karl Marx Frederick Engels Collected Works, Volume 11, Lawrence & Wishart, London, 1979, pp. 130-31.

[25] Age, 30 October 1951, p. 7. Although Boyd confined his attack to the misuse of colour as a Featurist device, it is possible that his architectural training and Modernist preferences left him suspicious about the worth of colour. David Batchelor has documented how colour has been associated with the primitive and the cosmetic, from Plato to Le Cobusier, Chromophobia, Reaktion, New York, 2000.

[26] Boyd, Australian Ugliness, p. 113.
[27] John D. Moore, “Thoughts in Reference to Modern Art”, Undergrowth, Jan,-Feb. 1927, no pagination.
[28] Robin Boyd, Artificial Australia, ABC, Sydney, 1967, p. 9.
[29] Boyd, Australian Ugliness, p. 44.

[30] Boyd, Australian Ugliness, p. 44.
[31] Boyd, Australian Ugliness, pp. 128-29.
[32] There was no shortage of U.S. works to call on, from David Riesman’s The Lonely Crowd (1956) to W. H. Whyte’s The Organisation Man (1957).
The left was in disarray after the dethroning of Stalin, and had yet to attach its critiques of Boyd’s “maladjustment in modern society” to the alienation/estrangement discussed by the Young Marx.
[33] Geoffrey Serle, Robin Boyd, MUP, Carlton, 1995, pp. 171-76.
[34] Quoted Serle, Robin Boyd, p. 112.

[35] Boyd, Australian Ugliness, p. 23. Neither Boyd nor Australians were unusual in turning to Nature to avoid explaining cultural experiences in terms of social conflict. Long before the Pathetic Fallacy of the Romantics, philosophers and poets had resorted to biological analogies for social organisations which were seen to mimic the life of plants or the stages of human development from infancy to maturity. The latter metaphor pervaded Australian economic policy with cries to protect “infant industries” while Gallipoli marked the “birth” of the national consciousness. MARILYN LAKE????

[36] Stephen Jay Gould examined the contribution of metaphors to scientific inquiry, Time’s Arrow Time’s Cycle, Myth and Metaphor in the Discovery of Geological Time, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1987.
[37] A lecturer in architecture at the then NSW University of Technology, E. C. Parker, welcomed plastics as an instance of form’s expressing function, structure and truth, Practical Plastics, May 1956, pp. 7-9 and 27. Boyd could have adapted these arguments to justify the huge blue fibre glass fish bowl he designed for the top of Neptune’s take-away in South Yarra in 1970. (Serle, pp. 313-14). For that construction to be considered Featurist, it would have had to have been decorated with gilded seahorses.
[38] Hardware Journal, September 1956, p. 28.
[39] Boyd, Australian Ugliness, p. 47.

[40]  Boyd, Australian Ugliness, p. 17. Plastics plants were on sale here by 1951, AP, October 1951, p. 11.
[41] See tariff reports, Australia, Parliamentary Papers, 1907-08, IV, pp. 887-92 and 1391-94; 1914-17, VIII, pp. 1070-71 and 1177-1200; 1934-37, II, pp. 1491-97; 1961, III, pp. 391-99.
[42] Boyd, Australian Ugliness, p. 105.
[43] J. M. Freeland, Architecture in Australia, Penguin, Ringwood, 1972, pp. 252 and 279.

[44] The Australian Ugliness appeared in the same year as R. M. Crawford’s slender Australian Perspective (1960) which promoted the contribution of the middle-classes. Although sociology was under a cloud at the University of Melbourne, Boyd could have made more of the publications by its social researchers, or S. J. Butlin’s reinterpretation of nineteenth-century Australian economic history away from pastoralism and mining towards the dynamics of urban construction. Otherwise, analysis and history were mostly at the essay stage, for example, The Australian Way of Life (1953), J. D. Pringle’s Australian Accent (1958), A. A. Phillips’s The Australian Tradition (1958), and Australian Civilisation (1962). Horne cobbled together pieces of his journalism for the The Lucky Country (1964).

[45] For Boyd’s appreciation of Betjeman see Serle, pp. 208-09.
[46] Time, 4 April 1960, p. 26.
[47] Observer (Syd.), 2 April 1960, p. 13.
[48] Jim Davidson, “The De-Dominionisation of Australia”, Meanjin, 38 (2), 1979, pp. 139-53.
[49] Bernard Smith reviewing J. M. Freeland’s Architecture in Australia, Historical Studies, 14 (53), October 1969, pp. 90-91; whatever the substance of the style , there can be no doubting the vehemence of opposition to it in the 1920s. GIVE EXAMPLES ???
[50] Robin Boyd, The Great Great Australian dream, Pergamon Press, Sydney, 1972, p. 4;  Serle, pp. 322-23.
By 1976, Boyd could have embellished this piece of parodic despair by picturing Whitlam’s Media Minister Doug McClelland in bed with Hollywood’s Jack Valenti, or the Queens’ Man turning out to be the CIA’s son-of-a-bitch.
[51] Max Harris, Ockers, essays on the bad old new Australians, Maximus Press, Adelaide, 1974.