Supply Barge Indoor Boat Building 1945
Supply Barge Indoor Boat Building
watercolour, pencil and pen on paper
Dimensions (H x W x D)
40 x 53 cm
obverse: Marcuse 45 / SUPPLY BARGE INDOOR BOAT BUILDING
verso: (handwritten, grey lead): E.H MARCUSE / INDOOR BOAT BUILDING (SUPPLY BARGES) ; (handwritten, black pen with green highlighter): BOAT BUILDING FISHERMANS BEND 1945 / MN-57
City of Melbourne Art and Heritage Collection
Born in Berlin, Ernest Marcuse (1900–85) studied at the Berlin School of Interior Design & Cabinetmaking and at the Reimann School before working as a freelance commercial artist, specialising in architectural, industrial and figurative drawing. With the rise of Nazism in 1933, Marcuse’s ability to work freely in Germany was curtailed due to his Jewish heritage, and he soon left for Britain, where he met his wife. He arrived in Australia as a refugee in October 1939, but unlike many refugees during wartime he was not interned. His artistic talent recognised, he was allowed to pursue employment, and within a month he was creating illustrations for ‘The Argus’, focusing on war themes and events. From 1942 to 1945 he was in the Australian Army at Bonegilla (Vic.) and at Woodside (SA), where he created artwork and layouts for officer training manuals, work for which he was much praised by his superiors. Following the war, until 1969, he was a freelance commercial and graphic artist.
During World War II, General Motors Holden (GMH) turned its manufacturing resources to war production. At its newly opened Fishermans Bend plant ‘forty-foot workboats’, or launches, were made for the Australian Army. The boats were also made by GMH in Adelaide and by Ford Motor Co. in Geelong; more than 400 of the boats were made in total. The boats were designed by J. Botteril and Fraser, another company located at Fishermans Bend. In this watercolour painting by Marcuse, dated 1945, three of the boats are captured mid-production at GMH, Fishermans Bend. The painting was acquired for the collection in 2019.