*** Jean Langley ***
Painter and Writer



Self Portrait Oil 355 x 255 mm 1983

....Jean Langley was born in Melbourne bayside suburb of Mentone in 1926. She was the third born of five

children. Her older siblings were Margaret and John (Jack) and her younger siblings, Robert and Elizabeth.

mother,Vera Lucy Savige, was born in Elsternwick, Melbourne . Her father John Samuel Langley was born

in England
and migrated to Australia in 1912. He worked briefly as a schoolteacher in Perth before being invited

to Melbourne by the
Rationalist Society of Victoria.

John Samuel Langley


Vera Lucy Langley
in Melbourne c.1930

....He moved to Melbourne to lecture and debate for the Society and to edit their paper, 'The Rationalist'. He

met Jean's mother through the Society. Shortly after marrying they moved to a Rationalist commune at

As the Langley family grew, the necessity for more space saw them move house, but remain close to

the commune and in close contact with those who lived there.

Jean Langley (centre) at the Rationalist
Commune at Mentone c.1931

....Jean " Our home was often full of Rationalists, and very interesting people. The conversation was

marvellous; a constant exchange of ideas and philosophies, not that I understood much of it. It was jolly as

much as anything else; serious and jolly."

....John and Vera Langley gave their children a great deal of freedom, alongside good values.

....Jean "My parents believed in responsibility; I was responsible for my two younger siblings, and so on.

And we were taught that we had a responsibility to neighbours and society, and to ideals. The only thing we

had to abide by was the truth."

The Langley family, from the right,
John, Jean, Elizabeth, Vera, Bob and
Margaret at Mentone c.1933

....Jean attended Mentone State School and then Mordialloc High School. She left school in the early years of

the War, and worked as a telephonist before training as a commercial artist at Manton's Department Store in

Bourke Street, Melbourne. She was with Manton's for about two years.

Jean and Bob Langley at Mentone beach c.1948

....Jean "I got very carried away with the idea of becoming a serious artist and not a commercial artist. I

was meeting intellectuals and bohemians, and getting a broader understanding of art. I got the feeling that

this new world I'd found was where I belonged."

Arthur Boyd (left) and John Perceval
at the Arthur Merric Boyd Pottery
in Murrumbeena c.1945

Neil Douglas at the Arthur Merric
Boyd Pottery
in Murrumbeena

....Leaving Manton's, she went looking for work at the Arthur Merric Boyd (AMB) Pottery at Murrumbeena

and there met John Perceval and Arthur Boyd. At that time, Neil Douglas was working for the AMB Pottery in

basement studio in Little Collins Street, decorating pottery such as teapots, cups and saucers, and plates,

made by
Arthur and John at Murrumbeena. They would bring the biscuited pottery there to be decorated and

then take it
back to Murrumbeena for firing. Jean joined Neil at the studio, decorating the pottery that the AMB


Jean Langley in Sydney
in 1947

Jean Langley at Mentone Beach

....Jean "Neil and I worked together in his studio. My job was basically to imitate Neil. I was supposed to

almost make it look as if my decoration was his. If Neil did a coffee cup, I might do another five. This was to

keep the production going."

....It was through Arthur Boyd that Jean met the extended Boyd family at Murrumbeena, and through Neil

Douglas that she met the Melbourne 'Herald' Music critic and her future husband, John Sinclair, and thus was

introduced to John and
Sunday Reed and their Heide 'world'. The Boyds and the Reeds became an integral part

of Jean's life as she
forged deep friendships with people like Arthur Boyd and Hermia, wife of David Boyd, John

and Mary Perceval and Merric Boyd's
wife, Doris Boyd, at Murrumbeena, and with John and Sunday Reed at

Heide. These people became Jean's lifelong

....Jean "I fitted in at Murrumbeena and at Heide, which was great luck. Heide impressed me greatly. It was

different to the Boyds. The Boyds were poor and the Reeds weren't, but the principles, the ethics, the

thoughts, and the quality of friendship were the same. Everybody was so lovely and warm. I felt like I had

found my tribe."

Jean Langley and John Sincliar
at the Loft in 1949

Jean and Bob Langley in Melbourne

...When the AMB encountered financial difficulties in the late 1940's and temporarily ceased production, Jean

found alternative work, including working in a toy factory in Collingwood, at Georges in their display

department, and at the Primrose Pottery Shop in little Collins Street.

Portrait of Jean Langley by Marie Stuart Jamieson
Oil 390 x 310 mm 1950

...In 1952 she married John Sinclair. They bought and moved into 'Rose Cottage' at Mentone. Jean returned to

work at the AMB, at the Neerim Road pottery, where Neil Douglas was now working with Arthur and John.

Her daughter, Jane was born in 1954. In 1956 she separated from her husband, but remained at 'Rose cottage'.

After Merric Boyd's death in 1959, Jean spent much time with Doris Boyd, who was in the last year of her life.

....Jean "Doris was a sweet and fragile little thing; very charming and very warm. It was sad for her after

Merric's death. The whole scene at Murrumbeena had changed. Arthur and Yvonne had gone to Surf Avenue

, before going overseas, John and Mary had gone to Canterbury, and David and Hermia had

moved to their house at Sandringham. I was seeing quite a lot of Doris then. I already knew her and admired

her immensely, but it was in that last period that we became really close."

Jean and Bob Langley at the Loft c.1950

....In 1960 and shortly before Doris Boyd's death, Jean went to England with her daughter. Her father had

and left her enough for a fare. She stayed at Heide with Sunday and John Reed for a several weeks before

sailing. In London she met up with the Arthur Boyds and the Blackmans, and worked for the Art's Council

at the Tate Gallery, selling catalogues and taking money at the door for the great
Picasso exhibition of 1960.

Later she often worked for families, looking after their children.

Jean Langley Charles Blackman
1280 x 620 mm

....She returned to Australia after two years away, living again at 'Rose Cottage' and for a time reuniting with

husband. Her second child, Kate was born in 1963. The Sinclairs continued to live at 'Rose Cottage' before

moving to Parkdale in 1969. In the early to mid 1970's they lived by the beach at Aspendale.

Jean Langley photographed by Mary Perceval

....A major interest Jean developed during the 1960's was painting Australian wildflowers. Initially painting in

Beaumaris area, she later travelled across Australia with her friends, the Reeds. She produced two books of

wildflower paintings; 'Australian Bush Flowers' in 1978, and 'To a Blue Flower' in 1983. The originals of her

paintings were purchased by the National Bank for their own collection.


Jean Langley's first book of Australian Wildflowers, published
in 1970

Illustrations from
Jean Langley's 'Australian Bush Flowers'

....Jean "The wildflowers were an enormous amount of work. There wasn't a book you could buy at the

time from which you could recognize local indigenous plants. I had the idea of doing a practical guide to our

wildflowers; one that people could actually use and carry in their pockets. They ended up as coffee-table

books, as was the fashion in the publishing world at that time.

....John and Sunday and I used to go to the Grampians each year for Sunday's birthday, bush walking and

bird watching, maybe for three days, maybe for a week. We did that every year if we could, and whenever

possible we walked one day a week, locally in the Dandenongs, or at sanddunes and heathlands of the

Mornington Peninsula. The threesome worked marvellously."

Jean Langley and Sunday Reed at the Grampians in western Victoria

Jean Langley, and Sunday and John Reed birdwatching at Parkdale

....In the early 1980's, Jean permanently separated from her husband. Following that and the deaths of John

Sunday Reed, Jean made the Mornington Peninsula her home. To support herself, she taught landscape

painting. In the mid 1980's, she bought a house at Mt
Martha overlooking Arthur's Seat and Port Phillip Bay.

While living there, she painted extensively on the Mornington Peninsula, particularly landscapes of the

Kangerong Valley, between Mt Martha and the Arthur's Seat Ridge.

Kangerong Valley
Oil 610 x 415 mm 1978

....In the early 1990's, Jean wrote 'Parting with Roses', which was published in 1993. A sensitive and reflective

and ultimately joyful book, in 'Parting with Roses' Jean weaves memories of her past, which include her

childhood days at Mentone and of her beloved garden at Rose Cottage, with stories of the birds and the trees

and the natural environment of Mt Martha. This is portrayed against the real and ongoing threat of urban

development of large areas of the Mornington Peninsula, an environment that she loves.

'Parting with Roses' by Jean Langley
Published by Loch Haven Books in 1993

....'Downhill, just below my house, a whining bulldozer clangs and bangs along the pretty yellow-earth road as

a large truck stands nearby with engine running. A front-end loader with its giant iron spoon scoops up earth,

trees, roots and rocks and dumps them into the truck. As one truck leaves with a load another arrives empty,

but not for long. I mourn the passing of the beautiful manna gums that until recently graced our little mountain

track. I see their enormous roots and massacred bodies hanging over the sides of the trucks as they are taken

away. Another bulldozer, halfway up the mountain behind my house is tearing away the bushland and digging a

wide trench the length of the mountain for sewerage pipes and drainage pipes. Down come the trees. What will

become of those very territorial creatures, the kookaburras and posssums? Where will they go?'

From 'Parting With Roses'

Jean Langley at the opening of Heide 1 in 2001

....Jean has returned to the England and Europe many times, the most recent trip being in 2003 with her

daughter Kate, where they sailed the fjords of the Norwegian coast.

....Today, Jean remains at Mt Martha, surrounded by her art, and
memories, both happy and sad, of an
interesting life with some very great and very creative people


*** Seascapes ***

Mt Martha from Rosebud
Oil 410 x 315 mm 1980

Mornington Peninsula from Seaford
Oil 410 x 315 mm 1981

Low tide West Rosebud
Oil 610 x 470 mm 1981

Anthony's Nose from Safety Beach
Oil 415 x 350 mm

Mornington Peninsula from Seaford
Oil 410 x 310 mm 1975

Mornington Peninsula from Seaford
Oil 355 x 255 mm 1975

Rosebud Pier
Oil 775 x 620 mm 1976

Arthurs Seat from Rye
Oil 405 x 450 mm 1976

Oil 410 x 310 mm 1976

Cliffs Mt Martha from Safety Beach
Oil 505 x 605 mm 1982

Mt Martha from McCrae
Oil 515 x 415 mm 1980

Rickett's Point
Oil 505 x 400 mm 1972

Mt Martha Rocks
Oil 510 x 410 mm 1976

Safety Beach
Oil 415 x 315 mm 1978

Rye Beach
Oil 460 x 355 mm 1986

Mornington Beach
Oil 450 x 610 mm



Dromana Seascape

Oil 400 x 200 mm 1973



Mt Martha from Rye
Oil 415 x 515 mm

Oil 405 x 305 mm

Oil 360 x 250 mm

Oil 410 x 310 mm










*** Landscapes ***

Dromana Landscape
Oil 260 x 215 mm 1966

Farm Main Ridge
Oil 605 x 455 mm 1970

Kangerong Valley
Oil 455 x 305 mm 1982

Kangerong Valley
Oil 610 x 415 mm 1973

Dry Grass Mt Martha
Oil 450 x 450 mm 1975

Kangerong Valley
Oil 755 x 600 mm 1979

Kangerong Valley
Oil 610 x 450 mm 1978

Kangerong Valley
Oil 610 x 360 mm 1980

Kangerong Valley
Oil 465 x 365 mm 1977

Kangerong Valley
Oil on board 610 x 415 mm 1978

The Ruthland farm in Wales
Oil 470 x 315 mm

Kangerong Valley
Oil 510 x 410 mm 1979

Apple Tree
Oil on board 510 x 410 mm


Hampstead Heath (London)
Oil 510 x 410 mm 1975

Hampstead Heath (London)
Oil 420 x 315 mm 1975


*** Drawings ***

170 x 130 mm c.1950

Cliff Pugh
130 x 170 mm c.1950

Music at the Loft
240 x 180 mm
c. 1950

Bob Langley
290 x 230 mm c.1951

Douglas Cairns
240 x 180 mm c.1970

Mrs Coutts

Sitting Room at Aspendale
Pencil 300 x 420 mm

Kate and Sago
Pencil 300 x 420 mm c.1980

Kate and Chris
Pencil 300 x 420 mm c.1980

Kate and Florence
Pencil 300 x 420 mm c.1980

Pencil 290 x 210 mm

Self Portrait
Pencil 300 x 420 mm

Winter Flowers
Pen 380 x 270 mm c.1995

Winter Flowers
Pen 380 x 270 mm c.1995

Garden Flowers
Pen 130 x 110 mm c.1995

Garden Flowers
Pen 150 x 80 mm c.1995

Garden Flowers
Pen 110 x 110 mm c.1995

Garden Flowers
Pen 150 x 130 mm c.1995

Garden Flowers
Pen 150 x 160 mm c.1995

Garden Flowers
Pen 130 x 160 mm c.1995

Return to the page top

Jean passed away on the 15th June 2017 after a short illness.
For all who knew and loved Jean; she will be sadly missed and always remembered with affection.

This web site was conceived and written by Colin Smith, and developed by
Paul Caine and Colin Smith with the help and support of Jean Langley
All art work by Jean Langley was photographed by Paul Caine 2003

Quotations in 'Jean Langley; A Life in Family and Art' have been taken
from interviews with Jean Langley by Colin Smith in 2002

All art work has been reproduced with permission of copyright owners
All photographs have been reproduced with permission of copyright owners

*** Links to other web sites by us ***

Hatton Beck
Merric Boyd His Life & His Art
Friedl Gardner : A Life In Family And Art

Doris Boyd : A Life In Family And Art

Lucy Boyd Beck A Life In Family and Art