In 1912, Franz Kafka wrote his masterpiece The Metamorphosis in 1912. The story follows the transformation of Gregor Samsa from a hard-working travelling salesman to a verminous insect who becomes a source of horror to his family and is disdained by his employer.
The overwhelming change in Samsa's world must have seemed to Arthur Boyd a synecdoche of the horror of the Second World War, which had only concluded three years before he painted Kafka's Metamorphosis. The Brueghelian sense of the apocalyptic which infused the artist's work at this time is here shown in the violent application of scarlet paint, against a forbidding forest background of swirls of indigo and black. Stylistically, the painting is also a harbinger of Boyd's works of the late 1960s such as the Nebuchadnezzar series, in its impasto application of paint and broad use of brilliant colour.