By Robert Frolla


Fitzroy’s Colour Gallery is currently showing the works and prints of Ernest Marcuse, a German-Australian artist.

The Ernest Marcuse exhibition, which has been running from June 4, features a number of Marcuse’s different art works. In the collection are drawings in watercolour, pencil and/or ink , pastels, acrylic and gauche. Marcuse also dabbled in mixed media and printmaking, which are also on display at the exhibition.

Colour Factory is providing available prints of Marcuse’s work for purchase.

Marcuse is known for his drawings and paintings of industrial landscapes and manual work, as well as war events. Eric Westbrook, the founding director of the new National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) in 1968, defined one of Marcuse’s natural gifts as creating “patterns of movement of people engaged in manual work”. His style is said to be “realism combined with impressionism”.

Marcuse’s drawings include the construction of the NGV and the Westgate Bridge, and shipbuilding in the Williamstown and Fishermans Bend areas.


Marcuse_Set3_ (21 of 53)


Born in 1900 in Berlin, Marcuse studied at The Berlin School of Interior Design & Cabinetmaking and The Reiman School from 1918-25. After his schooling, he began working as a freelance press artist for ‘Ullstein’, a daily Berlin newspaper, and for ‘Scherl & Moss’ catalogues, as well as other German magazines. He specialised in architectural, industrial and figure drawings.

In 1933, due to the rise of Nazism in Germany, he was banned from working officially for being Jewish. However, he adopted pseudonyms to find occasional work as a book illustrator and a games designer. In 1939 he moved to London to work as a commercial artist, and while he was there he met and married his wife. They emigrated to Melbourne not too long after.

After he and his wife arrived as refugees in October 1939, he was able to find employment within two weeks due to his artistic abilities and avoided time spent in detention centres. Before joining the Australian Army, he briefly worked for The Age and The Argus newspapers.


Marcuse 1


Marcuse became a full-time artist in 1970, after working many years as a freelance commercial artist. He continued to work until his sudden death in September 1985 at Queenscliff, Victoria.

The exhibition will be closing this Friday, so don’t miss out on seeing some wonderful drawings and prints of 1940s Melbourne in its industrial boom.

Edit: The exhibition has now been extended to July 16. 


Ernest Marcuse Exhibition
Colour Factory
June 4 – July 16


Robert edits for The Northsider and Phantasmagoria Magazine, and interns at Busybird Publishing.

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