Robert Prenzel (1866-1941) Australia

Biographical Information

Robert Prenzel was born in Elling in Prussia in 1866 He began his career as a wood carver at the age of 14 years under Ge Bauer, from the Munich School of Art.

He worked there for four years six days a week and ten hours a day. There he studied the art of design, group placing and massing effects for light and shade. Following this, he spent four years touring Europe carving his way through many countries. He contacted the Society of Carvers in each city and produced articles mainly for church decoration such as pulpits, screens and altars.

In 1888 Robert Prenzel visited Melbourne to view the Centennial International. Exhibition and remained here to establish himself as a cabinet maker and wood carver. Prenzel commenced his work in Australia with carvings in his highly elaborate and individual version of the German Renaissance and Rococo Revival styles - working on such major projects as the carving of the ceiling and walls of the west wing of St Patrick's Cathedral, Melbourne.

Prenzel also travelled to the Western District of Victoria on several occasions, and would carve elaborate staircases from Blackwood. One such staircase is at 'Purrumbeet' a well known historic home near Camperdown. Perhaps the turning point of Prenzel's career in Australia was the commissioning of the Mathias suite, in 1906 Mrs Mathias of Montreal visited her sister and brother-in-law, Mr and Mrs Stuart Black, at their property 'Glenormiston' at Terang. The Mathias suite is lavishly decorated with floral and faunal Australian motifs. It is thought that Mrs Mathias may have requested such decoration as a memento of her visit to Australia, but when adding to the suite in 1908, it would seem that the choice of motifs came from Prenzel himself.

His carving of Australian flora was exact in many instances, and sufficiently accurate botanically for the species depicted to be easily identified. Prenzel did at times however, adapt his designs in the interest of artistic balance. Prenzel became very interested in the subjects of his Australian carvings and at his home in Black Rock in 1903 his garden had a comprehensive collection of native plants which he would use to assist him in his work.

He died in Melbourne in 1941. Edit or add to this biography

Market Information

Drawing Room Easel 1902
Highest Price:
Drawing Room Easel 1902
Carved oak, 197.5 cm height
The Sydney Auction, Deutscher~Menzies, Sydney.
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 Total number soldNumber with imagesHighest priceRecent average price*
Paintings11A$604 N/A
Objects167A$18,600 N/A

* Calculated on sales over the last three years, where there are a sufficient number of sales over that period.

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