Sir Erik Ziegler Langker was born in Balmain on 3 November 1898. Langker was educated at Balmain Primary School and later attended Fort Street Boys’ High School and while at high school he showed an aptitude for art and decided to pursue it as a career. He studied with Julian Ashton, Dattilo Rubbo at the Royal Art Society School, J.S. Watkins and the marine artists James R. Jackson and Will Ashton.
In 1921 Langker began his long association with the Royal Art Society (RAS) when he exhibited two works, Haystacks and Sunlit Hills, at their annual spring show. The following year he exhibited twelve works with them and his seascape Clouds at Evening was illustrated in the exhibition catalogue. Despite his youth, Langker’s art showed promise to the leaders of the RAS and in 1923 he was made an Associate of the Royal Art Society (ARAS) and served a one-year term on the RAS executive council.
In preparation for his first major exhibition Langker purchased a horse and old caravan so he could visit isolated rural painting spots. During May and June 1924 he exhibited sixty-nine works at his first one-man show at Anthony Hordern’s department store gallery in Sydney. During 1928 Langker became one of the first Australian artists to be heard on the newly developed medium of radio. He gave several lectures on art and other subjects for the Sydney radio station 2FC. In August 1928 he exhibited forty works at Ormsby’s Galleries in Pitt Street, Sydney. In 1932 his oil Gathering Clouds was purchased by the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW). Five further images were purchased by the AGNSW during the 1940s and 50s.
While painting was his main love, Langker supplemented his income for many years by working as an art valuer for the London and Lancashire Insurance Company. By the early 1930s Langker was re-appointed to the RAS executive council, a position he held for the rest of his life. As well as his council responsibilities he was also a regular exhibitor with the Society, and in 1936 he was awarded a Fellowship of the Royal Art Society (FRAS), the group’s highest honour. In 1941 Langker was appointed joint Vice-President of the RAS with Sydney Long.
In 1946 Langker replaced Howard Ashton as President of the RAS, a position he held up to the time of his death. In 1947, after the resignation of Sydney Ure Smith, Langker was appointed a trustee of the (then National) Art Gallery of NSW, a position he held until 1974. He worked well with the institution’s modernist post-war Director, Hal Missingham, and in 1958 was appointed Vice President of Trustees. Subsequently, in 1961 he was promoted to President of the Trustees. During his time on this board the AGNSW became increasingly welcoming of new modern styles of art. Langker acted as a mentor to emerging artists and musicians and advised them “to do what you have to do with zest”.
In 1952 Langker held his last one-man show at the Grosvenor Galleries in George Street, Sydney. The exhibition included thirty-one works and the show was opened by his friend B.J. Waterhouse. A mid-career assessment of his work came from Herbert E. Badham, the modernist artist and author of A Study of Australian Art , (1949, p. 152):
ANG Australian National Gallery ACT
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Tasmanian Museum Art Gallery
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