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Reinis Zusters was born in 1919 to Latvian parents in Odessa, Russia and died in Wentworth Falls, NSW in 1999. Before Zusters turned two years of age, his father died and the young boy was then raised in an orphanage.
Studying art and architecture at Riga Art and Technical College in Latvia, Zusters also took on a course in anatomy at Riga University.
Zusters early influences were his Latvian heritage and the artist Voldemars Tone (1892-1958). Arriving in Australia in 1950 as a refugee, Zusters began work as a draughtsman, and from 1968 onwards he became known as a passionate full-time artist working in oil, watercolour and mixed media. The family moved from Western Australia to Canberra before finally settling in the Blue Mountains.
Zusters painted many large landscapes, including triptychs of his beloved Blue Mountains. His mountain scenes were reminiscent in technique of Jackson Pollock and were finished with washes and pale glazes of colour. The artist believed that there are four key elements to painting: good use of draftsmanship, design, craftsmanship & creativity. Zusters drew much of his inspiration from the Australian countryside, transforming colour and form of nature into a rich and vibrant panorama.
Zusters’ richly painted cityscapes featured a sharp-edged thickness of paint applied with a palette knife, layer upon layer. From urban Sydney to the outback, Zusters captured the essence and spirit of the Australian landscape. He also painted many large portraits including Sir Winston Churchill's gardener (purchased by Art Gallery of NSW) as well as small informal portrait-drawings of friends.
Zusters’ work is represented in numerous public and private collections in Australia and overseas. He won an enviable list of prestigious awards in Australia, USA and Japan, the latter being the Bronze Prize in the 1990 Osaka Triennale. He achieved his win from over 29 000 artists competing from 81 countries. In 1959, Zusters took out the Wynne Prize and in 1994 was honoured with the Order of Australia Medal.
With an abiding belief in promoting and expanding awareness of the visual arts, together with his prolific Australian themed artworks, Zusters' legacy was to bring a deeper understanding and appreciation of his adopted country.