Theodore Penleigh was born on 15 August 1890 at Penleigh House, Wiltshire, and was educated at Haileybury College and The Hutchins School, Hobart. He studied at the Melbourne National Gallery School (1905-09) and in his final year exhibited at the Victorian Artists’ Society. He arrived in London in 1911 and his ‘Springtime’ was soon hung at the Royal Academy. He occupied studios at Chelsea, Amersham and St Ives, but for a time made Paris his headquarters. There his studio adjoined that of Phillips Fox who brought him into contact with the French modern school and through whom he met Edith Susan Gerard Anderson; they were married in Paris on 15 October 1912.
After touring France and Italy, the couple returned to Melbourne. In 1913 Boyd held an exhibition and won second prize in the Federal capital site competition; he also won the Wynne Prize for landscape in 1914. In October he exhibited at the Athenaeum Hall paintings of Venice, Paris, Sydney, Tasmania and Victoria, including some of Warrandyte, where he had built The Robins, a charming attic house set in bushland.
In 1915 Boyd joined the Australian Imperial Force, becoming a sergeant in the Electrical and Mechanical Mining Company, but was badly gassed at Ypres and invalided to England. In 1918 in London he published Salvage, for which he wrote a racy text illustrated with twenty vigorous black and white ink-sketches of army scenes. Later that year he returned to Melbourne and in November held an exhibition at the Victorian Artists’ Society’s gallery. Although he suffered from the effects of gas, he held one-man shows in 1920, 1921 and 1922; his work, both water-colours and oils, sold quickly. In September 1922 he visited England to choose a collection of contemporary European art for a government-sponsored exhibition to Australia.
On 28 November 1923 Penleigh Boyd was killed instantly when the car he was driving to Sydney overturned near Warragul; he was buried in Brighton cemetery. Next March, Decoration Co. auctioned most of his remaining work, including some of his finest paintings, without reserve.
In his short career Penleigh Boyd was recognized as one of Australia’s finest landscape painters, with a strong sense of colour controlled by smooth and subtle tones. ‘Wattle Blossoms’, hung at the Royal Academy in 1923, was much admired. He loved colour, having been influenced early by study of Turner and the example of McCubbin.