Ludwig Hirschfeld Mack

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Ludwig Hirschfeld Mack
Ludwig Hirschfeld Mack, 1923.jpg
BornLudwig Hirschfeld
(1893-07-11)11 July 1893
Died7 January 1965(1965-01-07) (aged 71)
Allambie Heights, Sydney, Australia.
OccupationArtist, musician, art educator
Alma materBauhaus, Weimar
Notable worksDesolation, Internment Camp, Hay 1941
SpouseElenor Wirth (1917–36)
Olive Russell (1955–65)

Ludwig Hirschfeld Mack (11 July 1893, in Frankfurt-am-Main – 7 January 1965, in Allambie Heights, in Sydney) was a German-born Australian artist.

His formative education was 1912–1914 at Debschitz art school in Munich. He studied at the Bauhaus from 1919–24 and remained working there until 1926 where, along with Kurt Schwerdtfeger,[1] he further developed the Farblichtspiele ('coloured-light-plays'), which used a projection device to produced moving colours on a transparent screen accompanied by music composed by Hirschfeld Mack. It is now regarded as an early form of multimedia.[2][3] He was a participant, along with the former Bauhaus master Gertrud Grunow, in den II. Kongreß für Farbe-Ton-Forschung (Hamburg 1. - 5. Oktober 1930) (English: Second Congress for Colour-Sound Research, Hamburg).[4] Music and colour theory remained lifelong interests, informing his art work in a number of media, and it was the inspiration for his well-respected and influential teaching.


Ludwig Hirschfeld Mack was born in Frankfurt am Main where he grew up. He attended the Musterschule, a progressive Frankfurt high school for musically gifted children, which still exists today. He was later taught by Hermann Obrist and Wilhelm von Debschitz in Munich, taking art history with Heinrich Wölfflin and Fritz Burger. During the First World War, Ludwig Hirschfeld Mack was an infantry officer.


Hirschfeld Mack completed a craftsman apprenticeship at his father's leather factory before studying at the Teaching and Experimental Studios for Applied and Free Art under Hermann Obrist and Wilhelm von Debschitz in Munich in 1912. He then enrolled at the University of Munich and attended lectures in art history by Heinrich Wölfflin and Fritz Burger.[5] In 1919 he went to study at the Art Academy in Stuttgart under Adolf Hölzel (colour theory) and Ida Kerkovius, but later the same year enrolled at the Bauhaus, where he studied under Johannes Itten, Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky,[5] and was apprenticed to Lyonel Feininger in the print workshop, obtaining a Bauhaus graduate diploma in lithography in 1924.[6] Itten planned to offer a course devoted to colour at the Bauhaus, but as he was sacked before it could be taught Hirschfeld Mack delivered the first dedicated course on colour (as an unofficial course) in the winter semester of 1922–23.[7]

He remained at the Bauhaus until 1926 and conducted experiments in light projection, following German sculptor Kurt Schwerdtfeger (1897–1966) in developing the "Farbenlichtspiele" (colour-light play), producing an apparatus that combined moving projections of coloured light through mechanically operable geometric stencils displayed to music created by Ludwig himself.[8] Its first performance was at the Bauhaus Lantern Festival 21 June 1922. Ludwig described the kinetic projection as "fugue-like, strictly structured plays of colour, always derived from a definite colour-form theme".

In 1963, while visiting Europe, Hirschfeld was invited by the Bauhaus-Archiv, then in Darmstadt, to reconstruct the instrument which was filmed for the archive.[9] The black-and-white film was subsequently lost, but a further recreation was made under the direction and assistance of Hirschfeld-Mack's grandson Kaj Delugan and performances filmed in colour by Corinne Schweizer and Peter Böhm with a musical sound-track[10]

Further teaching[edit]

In 1926, Hirschfeld Mack began teaching art in the Free School in Wickersdorf. In 1929 he was as a teacher of colour and general morphology at the University of Craft and Architecture in Weimar, the school which was established in Weimar after the Bauhaus left in 1925, and reopen in Dessau in 1926. He then became professor at the Pedagogical Academy in Frankfurt (Oder). He taught at the University of Kiel from 1932 until the university was closed by the Nazis in 1933. He moved in 1935 to the Jöde-Schule/Güntherschule in Berlin and taught the construction of simple musical instruments. Hirschfeld Mack had married Elenor Wirth in 1917 and entered the Society of Friends (better-known as Quakers), but because of his part-Jewish heritage fled the Nazis and emigrated to England in 1936.[11]

United Kingdom[edit]

Upon arrival Hirschfeld Mack taught art for the Subsistence Production Society, a Depression-era sustenance program of the Quakers in the Eastern Valley of Monmouthshire in South Wales. Elenor (d.1953) remained in Germany with the two youngest daughters, while his eldest, Margarita, followed him into English exile. His second daughter Ursel (17) committed suicide in Germany in 1937. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, included his work in its Bauhaus retrospective of 1938[12]


In 1940 Hirschfeld Mack was deported to Australia as an enemy alien on the ship HMT Dunera, spending time in internment camps in Hay, Orange and Tatura, before being granted Australian citizenship. Imprisonment and the longing for freedom were the theme of his small, stark, poignant relief prints of this period, including the woodcut Desolation, Internment Camp, Hay 1941. He was mentor to other internees including Erwin Fabian.[13] His release from detention was secured in April 1942 through the intercession of Dr J.R. Darling, principal of Geelong Church of England Grammar School in Victoria, who appointed Hirschfeld Mack as the Art master. "Dr Hirschfeld", as he was known, and as recorded by one of his pupils the prominent curator David Thomas, was held in high regard students and staff alike, and proved to be an inspirational teacher, consistently propounding the Bauhaus principles of self-knowledge, economy of material and form, and reform of society through art.[6] Hirschfeld introduced the boys to such things as colour-coded guitars and colour 'organs'[14] and in 1965 some of the instruments were donated to the 'Occupational Centre for Mental Handicapped Children' in Geelong.[15]


Hirschfeld was amongst a number of European wartime refugees who contributed to the renewal of Australian Art.[16][17][18] As Professor Joseph Burke then Professor of Fine Arts, Melbourne University, notes in 1954: "Among the leaders of this "New Australian" contribution may be mentioned Desiderius Orban (b. 1884), a distinguished painter whose teaching has made a profound mark in Sydney in the post-war years; Dr. Ludwig Hirschfeld-Mack, an original member of the Bauhaus staff, a close colleague and friend of Paul Klee, whose work has influenced his own highly original abstract paintings; Sali Herman (b. 1898), and the recent winner of the Blake Prize for religious art, Michael Kmit, from the Ukraine.[19]

Hirschfeld was also a guest lecturer at the University of Melbourne, where he had his first exhibition in Australia in the Rowden White Library in 1946, possibly organised by fellow Dunera passenger Franz Philipp,[20][21] and in the same year his work was included in group exhibitions of the Contemporary Art Society (CAS) in both Sydney and Melbourne during its most radical period under John Reed (art patron).[22] He showed also at the Peter Bray Gallery in Melbourne, in 1953.[23][24]

In 1949–1950, 1958 and 1964 he visited Europe. When Walter Gropius came to lecture at the Royal Australian Institute of Architects convention in Sydney in 1954 he made a special trip to Geelong Grammar School to visit his former colleague.

In 1955 Hirschfeld married Miss Olive Russell, a leading Quaker whom he had met at Tatura, and teacher of social studies at the Melbourne Church of England Girls Grammar School. In 1957 he retired from Geelong Grammar School and they moved to Ferny Creek, Victoria.[25][26]

In 1960, Clement Meadmore selected works from Hirschfeld Mack's own collection to curate the first significant exhibition of Bauhaus ideas and work in Australia, "The Bauhaus - Aspects and Influences", at Gallery A in Melbourne (July–August 1961).[27] Included were Hirschfeld Mack's own works and colour-coded musical instruments and proof prints he had made for other Bauhaus artists as well as numbers of works given to him during his period at the Bauhaus. After Hirschfeld Mack's death, Gallery A held a commemorative exhibition of his watercolours.[28][29][30]

Ludwig Hirschfeld Mack died on 7 January 1965 at Allambie Heights, a suburb of Sydney.


  • Work represented in Bauhaus: 1919-1925 MOMA New York 1938
  • University of Melbourne, 1946
  • Solo exhibition Peter Bray Gallery, 435 Bourke St., Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 1953
  • Memorial exhibition at University Gallery Melbourne, 1981
  • The Great Australian Art Exhibition 1788-1988 Art Gallery of South Australia, 1988[31]
  • Bauhaus Centenary: Ludwig Hirschfeld Mack, Feb 23, 2019–May 26, 2019 Geelong Gallery, 55 Little Malop Street, Geelong[1]


He produced an explanatory text of the Farbenlichtspiele in 1923,[32] also an article, "Reflected-Light Compositions…" (1925)[33] In retirement in 1963 he published The Bauhaus: An Introductory Survey.[34]

The Ludwig Hirschfeld Mack Collection[edit]

The Ludwig Hirschfeld Mack Collection was presented Melbourne University in 1971 and 1980 by Hirschfeld Mack's widow, Olive Hirschfeld. The collection contains over six hundred works by Hirschfeld Mack, including almost three hundred drawings, over two hundred prints, ninety-one watercolours and sixty-nine paintings. In addition the University of Melbourne Archives houses material including correspondence, teaching aids, drawings, photographs and slides.[citation needed]

Olive Hirschfeld also donated a collection of her late husband's paintings, prints and drawings to the [National Gallery of Australia], and a number of his works, many from his internment at nearby Tatura, can be found at the Geelong and Shepparton Regional Art Galleries.[35]

The Hirschfeld-Mack Professorship in Germany and Australia[edit]

In 2008, the Institute of English Philology at the Free University of Berlin (Institut für Englische Philologie der Freien Universität Berlin (FU)) set up a Ludwig Hirschfeld-Mack Visiting Chair of Australian Studies[36] The professorship is named after Hirschfeld-Mack, "to stress the interdisciplinary nature of its teachers, their commitment to the role of culture in the public sphere, and the central transcultural German-Australian aspect of the project." The chair is funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the Australian Embassy in Berlin.

Hirschfeld-Mack professors in Berlin included: Dr. Stephen Muecke, Professor of Cultural Studies at the University of Technology Sydney; Dr. Philip Mead, Professor of Australian Literature at the University of Western Australia; Dr. Devleena Ghosh, Associate Professor in Arts and Sciences at the University of Technology Sydney; Dr. Lynn McCredden, Professor of Literary Studies at Deakin University; Dr. Simon During, Australian Professorial Fellow at the University of Queensland; Dr. Anna Haebich, Distinguished Professor of Human Rights Education at Curtin University; Dr. Peter Otto, Professor of English and Theatre at the University of Melbourne;Dr. Chandani Lokuge, Associate Professor in Creative Writing at Monash University; Dr. Verity Burgmann, Professor of Political Science at the University of Melbourne; and Dr. Andrew Milner, Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Monash University.

In 2010 DAAD established, in the reverse direction, a Hirschfeld-Mack Visiting Chair for German Studies at the German Department at the University of Western Australia. Through this reciprocal visiting professor program the exchange between the Australian and German higher education system is intensified. The first Hirschfeld-Mack professors in Perth were the Germanists Dr. Matthias N. Lorenz, University of Bielefeld (2010), and Prof. Dr. Sven Kramer, University of Lüneburg (2011).

Further reading[edit]

  • Art and Australia, 30, no 4, 1993, p 518
  • Bate, W. (1990) Light Blue Down Under. Melbourne
  • Böhm, Peter; Schweizer, Corrinne (Directors). Farben Licht Spiele: Reconstruction 2000. DVD-Video, PAL, stereo, dur. 45 min. (Film of a reconstruction of Hirschfeld Mack's light playing apparatus.)
  • Frances Derham MBE : a retrospective exhibition covering the period 1910 to 1985 and including works by her associates: Mary Cecil Allen, George Bell, Danila Vassilieff, Geoff Jones, Ethel Spowers, Ludwig Hirschfeld-Mack. East Malvern, Vic. : Jim Alexander Gallery, 1986.
  • Draffin, Nicholas (1974) Two masters of the Weimar Bauhaus :Lyonel Feininger, Ludwig Hirschfeld Mack [Sydney] : Trustees of the Art Gallery of New South Wales,. ISBN 072410738X.
  • Elsen, G. (1990) The Dunera Experience, exhibition catalogue, Jewish Museum of Australia. Melbourne :
  • Form (Cambridge, England), 2, Sept 1966, p 10
  • Hapkemeyer, Andreas/Stasney, Peter (Eds.), (2000) Ludwig Hirschfeld-Mack. Bauhaus and visionary. Hatje Cantz Verlag, OstfildernRuit, ISBN 978-3-7757-0928-6.,
  • Merewether, Charles, (1984), Art and Social Commitment, Sydney, NSW : Art Gallery of New South Wales.
  • McNamara, Andrew (2008) 'The Bauhaus in Australia', in Ann Stephen, Philip Goad, and Andrew McNamara, Modern Times: The Untold Story of Modernism in Australia, Melbourne 2008, 215.
  • McCulloch, A., (1984), Encyclopedia of Australian Art, Melbourne, Vic (Second edition)
  • Hirschfeld-Mack, Ludwig, (1963) The Bauhaus : an introductory survey; with a foreword by Walter Gropius, introduction by Joseph Burke, epilogue by Sir Herbert Read. Croydon, Vic. : Longmans Green
  • Pearl, C. (1983) The Dunera Scandal. Sydney :
  • Renowden, F. & Schwarzbauer, R. (2006) The Bauhaus Legacy at GGS. Works designed and inspired or created by Ludwig Hirschfield Mack (1893–1965), Art Master 1942-1957.
  • Seear, Lynne & Ewington, Julie (eds.)(1998) Brought to light: Australian art 1850–1965 : from the Queensland Art Gallery collection. South Brisbane : Queensland Art Gallery.
  • Stasny, Peter (1991) Ludwig Hirschfeld-Mack, Künstler, Kunsttheoretiker und Kunstpädagoge im Gefolge des Weimarer Bauhaus (PhD thesis, University of Vienna).
  • Stephen, Ann, Goad, Philip and McNamara, Andrew (eds.) Modern times : the untold story of modernism in Australia. Carlton, Vic. : Miegunyah Press ; Sydney, N.S.W. : in association with Powerhouse Publishing, 2008.
  • Thomas, Daniel & Radford, Ron, (1988), The Great Australian Art Exhibition, CAT.
  • Underhill, N. (1977) Ludwig Hirschfeld Mack, exhibition catalogue, Brisbane.
  • Schwarzbauer, Resi, with Bell, Chris (2021) Ludwig Hirschfeld-Mack, More Than A Bauhaus Artist HistorySmiths Pty Ltd, ACN 082 919 480, ISBN 978-0-6489574-1-6.


  1. ^ "Kurt Schwerdtfeger". Bauhaus Online. Retrieved 30 November 2018.
  2. ^ Lameri, Bregt (2013) Colourful Projections: Bauhaus Farbenlichtspiele and their Various Reconstruction (PDF) Archived 7 November 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 6 November 2016
  3. ^ Kenneth Peacock. Instruments to Perform Color-Music: Two Centuries of Technological Experimentation in LEONARDO,[Oxford, Eng.] : Pergamon Pres, ISSN 0024-094X. Vol. 21, No. 4, pp. 397-406, 1988, p.404
  4. ^ Farbe-Ton-Forschungen. III. Band. Bericht über den II. Kongreß für Farbe-Ton-Forschung (Hamburg 1. - 5. Oktober 1930). Published 1931.
  5. ^ a b Bauhaus100. Ludwig Hirschfeld-Mack. Retrieved 30 November 2018
  6. ^ a b "Hirschfeld-Mack, Ludwig (1893–1965)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Retrieved 30 August 2012.
  7. ^ Rainer K. Wick, Teaching at the Bauhaus, OstfildernRuit 2000, p.113, cited in McNamara, Andrew 'The Colour of Modernism: ColourForm Experiments in Europe and Australia' in Sascha Bru, Jan Baetens, Peter Nicholls, Benedikt Hjartarson (Eds.) (2009) Europa! Europa?: The Avant-Garde, Modernism and the Fate of a Continent Volume 1 of European Avant-Garde and Modernism, Tania Rum Edition, Walter de Gruyter Publ., ISBN 3110217716, 9783110217711
  8. ^ McDonough, T. (2014). Janice Kerbel: Killing the Workers. Afterall: A Journal of Art, Context, and Enquiry, 37(1), 102-111.
  9. ^ : Hirschfeld-Mack, Ludwig & Hapkemeyer, Andreas, 1955- & Stasny, Peter & Museion (Bolzano, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy) (2000). Ludwig Hirschfeld-Mack : Bauhäusler und Visionär. H. Cantz, Ostfildern
  10. ^ McNamara, Andrew (2008), "The Bauhaus in Australia: interdisciplinary confluences in modernist practices", Modern Times: The Untold Story of Modernism in Australia, Miegunyah Press: 2–15, 215–217, ISBN 978-0-522-85551-7
  11. ^ : Vinzent, Jutta (2006) Identity and image : refugee artists from Nazi Germany in Britain, 1933-1945. VDG, Verlag und Datenbank für Geisteswissenschaften, Weimar
  12. ^ Herboth, E. J. Review: The Bauhaus at MoMA Design Observer, 11.15.09. Observer Omnimedia LLC.
  13. ^ "... tales of 'making do' with humble materials are joined by a group of works produced during the Second World War in internment camps in Hay, Orange and Tatura by German and Italian-born artists including Ludwig Hirschfeld Mack, Erwin Fabian and Bruno Simon. The Bauhaus-trained artist Hirschfeld Mack taught some of his fellow detainees the technique of monotype printing, using old windowpanes or discarded Masonite, and printing ink made from black shoe polish. The shortage of materials in these barren surroundings made woodcuts another popular technique. Mack's 1941 print, Desolation, Internment Camp, Hay, is one of the simplest but strongest statements made in this medium. In this eloquent print, the silhouette of a solitary figure is seen at night looking at the Southern Cross through the barbed wire fence of the camp. Made by an artist far from home, there is a palpable sense of despair and isolation beneath the alien night sky.". Sarina Noordhuis-Fairfax. The story of Australian printmaking 1801–2005 in artonview, pp14-23, Issue no. 49, Autumn 2007, National Gallery of Australia. ISSN 1323-4552
  14. ^ Corian Geelong Grammar School, May 1955, p.30
  15. ^ 'A complete orchestra-The Colour Chord: Happiness from colour "chord" for children at new occupational centre', Geelong Advertiser 7 July 1965.
  16. ^ Whitehead, Eileen (1 January 2009), World War II prisoner of war visual art : Investigating its significance in contemporary society, Edith Cowan University, Research Online, Perth, Western Australia
  17. ^ Whitehead, E. (2014). A Leap in the Dark: Identity, Culture and the Trauma of War Mediated Thorough The Visual Arts of North-East European Migrants And Émigrés To Australia After 1945.
  18. ^ Butler, R., & Donaldson, A. D. S. (2015). War and peace: 200 years of Australian-German artistic relations. EMAJ Electronic Melbourne Art Journal, 1(8), 1-24.
  19. ^ "Art in Australia". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 4 February 1954. p. 10 Supplement: Royal Tour Supplement.
  20. ^ 'Water Colour Exhibition: Grammar School master's work', Geelong Advertiser, 25 March 1946
  21. ^ Thomas, D. 'Hirschfeld-Mack: Daniel Thomas on the influence of his teacher Ludwig Hirschfeld-Mack' Art and Australia vol. 30, no. 4, Winter 1933, p.520
  22. ^ 1946 Catalogue for the 8th Contemporary Art Society, Hirschfeld-Mack archive, Baillieu Library, Melbourne University
  23. ^ Stephen, A. (2006) Modernism & Australia: Documents on Art, Design and Architecture 1917-1967, Miegunyah Press, 632.
  24. ^ :Deutsher, Chris & Butler, Roger, 1948- & Witt, Dixie & Deutsher Galleries (1978). A survey of Australian relief prints, 1900/1950. Deutscher Galleries, Armadale, Vic
  25. ^ Hirschfeld-Mack, Ludwig & Hapkemeyer, Andreas, 1955- & Stasny, Peter & Museion (Bolzano, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy) (2000). Ludwig Hirschfeld-Mack : Bauhäusler und Visionär. H. Cantz, Ostfildern
  26. ^ Tim Fisher, 'Hirschfeld-Mack, Ludwig (1893–1965)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 3 May 2018.
  27. ^ Gallery A. (Art gallery) (1960), The Bauhaus : aspects and influence, Melbourne
  28. ^ McNamara, Andrew (2008) 'The Bauhaus in Australia', in Ann Stephen, Philip Goad, and Andrew McNamara, Modern Times: The Untold Story of Modernism in Australia, Melbourne 2008, 8.
  29. ^ MS 7 Papers of Gallery A [Box number: folder number], National Gallery of Australia Research Library Archives, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Item 3GA 158 List of items sold at the L. Hirschfeld Mack Exhibition, Gallery A, Melbourne, 15 and 26 November 1965, two pages, and Item 1GA 76.5 Exhibition catalogue (Number 9) for L. HirschfeldMack, at Gallery A, 60 Flinders Lane. Includes an illustration, introduction, titles and prices of forty works. Melbourne, March 1960, eight pages.
  30. ^ Gallery A (Melbourne, Vic.), [Gallery A (Melbourne, Vic.) : Australian Gallery File], retrieved 3 May 2018
  31. ^ Catalogue: Creating Australia, 200 years of art 1788-1988 / by the Art Gallery of South Australia ; edited & introduced by Daniel Thomas ; selection co-ordinated by Ron Radford ; with contributions by Leigh Astbury ... [et al.]. [Sydney] : International Cultural Corporation of Australia [and] Art Gallery Board of South Australia, 1988. ISBN 0-642-13433-2 "Published on the occasion of The Great Australian Art Exhibition 1788–1988 originated by the Art Gallery of South Australia and presented by the International Cultural Corporation of Australia for the Australian Bicentennial Authority".
  32. ^ Hirschfeld-Mack, Ludwig: Farben Licht-Spiele, Wiesen-Ziele-Kritiken (Weimar, 1923)
  33. ^ which is reprinted in Hans Maria Wingler, Joseph Stein. The Bauhaus: Weimar, Dessau, Berlin, Chicago. MIT Press, 1969. ISBN 0-262-23033-X, 9780262230339, 653 pages ed.
  34. ^ Hirschfeld-Mack, Ludwig: The Bauhaus : an introductory survey; with a foreword by Walter Gropius, introduction by Joseph Burke, epilogue by Sir Herbert Read. Croydon, Vic. : Longmans Green, 1963.
  35. ^ Bobele, Stacie (December 2010), "A journey into abstraction: the pictorial language of Ludwig Hirschfeld Mack", University of Melbourne Collections (7): 17–23, ISSN [// 1835-6028]
  36. ^ Freie Universität Berlin. Ludwig Hirschfeld-Mack Gastlehrstuhl für Australienstudien (in English). Retrieved 18 January 2018

External links[edit]