The City of Glen Eira has a long historical association with the arts, a rich, cultural heritage and a commitment to celebrating the achievements of the community’s creative artists through its vibrant arts and culture program. A number of significant Australian artists and families have lived and worked locally in Glen Eira since 1913.
The Boyd family is one of Australia’s most celebrated artistic dynasties. Their association with the City of Glen Eira spans over four generations and represents a significant chapter in the history of Australian art. From 1913 to 1964, various permutations of the clan lived and worked together in a collection of properties at the end of Wahroonga Crescent, Murrumbeena. The Boyd family contained some of Australia’s best-known creative identities, including the painters Arthur Merric Boyd, Emma Minnie Boyd, William Merric Boyd, Arthur Boyd, David Boyd, sculptor Guy Boyd, architect Robin Boyd and novelist Martin Boyd.
The story of the Murrumbeena Boyds begins with William Merric Boyd (1888–1959), who with his wife Doris and their family lived and worked in Murrumbeena from 1913 to 1959. His parents artist’s Arthur Merric Boyd (1862–1940) and Emma Minnie Boyd (1858–1936 ) established a studio residence for him at 8 Wahroonga Crescent, Murrumbeena which he called Open Country. After a difficult childhood which included failed attempts in both agricultural and theological colleges, Merric Boyd settled down as a ceramicist. He took drawing lessons at the National Gallery of Design under Frederick McCubbin and from 1912 to 1914 he was employed at the Australian Porcelain Insulator works.
Merric Boyd established a kiln and pottery studio at his property in Murrumbeena, where he produced the first art pottery in Australia. His aim was to combine the functionality of ceramic wares with creative sculptural forms. Murrumbeena provided everything that he needed: he dug the clay from his own backyard and mixed the glazes using his own recipes. Merric Boyd’s life was lived at the margins. Although a gifted potter, he lacked business awareness and his family largely relied upon financial assistance from his mother, Minnie Boyd. His parents, his mother-in-law, his children and their families, all lived in a portion of property on the northern side of Wahroonga Crescent, Murrumbeena. After Merric Boyd’s passed away in 1959, Doris remained at Open Country until her death in 1960. Lucy and Hatton Beck returned to Open Country where they established a pottery school, running exhibitions and classes until 1963. In early 1964, a significant part of the Australia’s cultural history was lost when the house was sold to a development company, demolished and replaced by 16 units.
Merric Boyd’s children became significant names in Australian art: Lucy Boyd Beck (1916–2009) a painter and ceramicist, Arthur Merric Bloomfield Boyd (1920–1999) was a leading Australian painter of the late 20th century, Guy Boyd (1923–1988) a sculptor, David Boyd (1924 –2011) a painter and Mary Elizabeth Boyd (Lady Mary Nolan) (1926–) a painter who was married firstly to John Perceval and then to Sidney Nolan. Paintings, ceramics, sculpture, drawings and watercolours by William Merric Boyd, Arthur Boyd, Emma Minnie Boyd, Guy Boyd and Martin Boyd are represented in the Glen Eira City Council art collection and other public gallery collections including the National Gallery of Victoria and the National Gallery of Australia, providing a fascinating insight into the creative output of this fascinating and significant Australian artistic dynasty.
References: Paul Magin, Catalogue essay. The Murrumbeena Boyds. Just Like Us: but different. Glen Eira City Council Gallery, Melbourne, 2006; Brenda Niall, The Boyds, Melbourne University Press, July, 2002.
William Merric Boyd
Earthenware and glaze
Glen Eira City Council art collection
George Henry Johnston OBE (20 July 1912–22 July 1970) was an Australian journalist, war correspondent and novelist, best known for his trilogy of semi-autobiographical novels: My Brother Jack, Clean Straw for Nothing and A Cartload of Clay.
Johnston was raised in Elsternwick and attended local schools. This upbringing is evident in My Brother Jack which details the Elsternwick and Ripponlea areas during the period between the world wars.
Johnston was the father of four children, daughters Gae and Shane and two sons Jason and the poet Martin Johnston. From the names of his children, he created the pseudonym Shane Martin, under which he published a total of five novels.
George Johnston was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1970 for services to literature. He died later that year, aged 58.
Erica McGilchrist (born Mt Gambier, South Australia in 1926, died in Melbourne, Victoria in 2014) was a highly regarded Australian artist with an important career as an educator, environmentalist and activist for women’s art, co-founding the Women’s Art Register in 1975. She lived and worked locally from a studio in Caulfield for over forty years and held a major solo exhibition Erica McGilchrist — Artist, Feminist and Humanist at the Caulfield Arts Complex in March 1995. The exhibition featured selected major works by Erica McGilchrist created between 1951 and 1995. A retrospective of her work Erica McGilchrist: Selected Works 1951–1995 was held at Heide Museum of Modern Art from 23 October 2013 to 30 April 2014. The exhibition was drawn primarily from the Heide Museum collection but also included a selection of key paintings, drawings and embroideries from our art collection reflecting the diversity of her practice. The work of Erica McGilchrist is well represented in our art collection. We received a major donation from Erica McGilchrist of more than 70 artworks to our art collection in 2001, including paintings, drawings and textiles created between 1952 and 1992 that encompass the broad environmental, feminist and humanitarian themes explored in her artistic practice. Trio, 1970 from the Enigmas series is considered a major painting in her career.
From the Enigmas series
Synthetic polymer paint on canvas
152.5 x 122 cm
Glen Eira City Council art collection