Reinis Zusters OAM was born 15 October 1918 in Odessa, Ukraine, of Latvian parents. Zusters’ father died before he was two years old and he was raised in an orphanage from an early age. He had one sister. He studied Art at the Riga Technical College, Latvia, from 1935 to 1940. He married Aldija Kapteinis, and they had a daughter, Rudite (born 1942 in Riga).

After World War II the Zusters family were refugees. They reached Western Australia in 1950, where they stayed for 6 months before moving to Canberra, ACT. In 1952, Zusters moved from Canberra to Pennant Hills in Sydney with his second wife, Arija Biks. Their daughter Laura was born in Sydney in 1956. In 1966, Zusters met his future third wife, Venita Salnajs. In 1969, Zusters bought a house in Greenwich, Sydney. He married Venita on September 17, 1976, and they moved to Wentworth Falls in the Blue Mountains.

Zusters died on 8 October, 1999 at Wentworth Falls, and was cremated at Rookwood Crematorium, Sydney. His ashes are buried in the Latvian section of Rookwood Cemetery.


Zusters studied at the Technical College of Riga (Latvia), and at East Sydney Technical College, Australia. He was influenced by his Latvian cultural heritage, and admired the artist Voldemars Tone (1892-1958).

Shortly after arrival in Australia, Zusters became a draughtsman with the Department of Works and Housing in Canberra. Later he was appointed chief designer with the Australian-American architectural firm Austin-Anderson, at St. Leonards, Sydney. Zusters practised as a full-time professional artist from 1968.


Zusters was a prolific painter, predominantly in oils. He produced many large landscapes, including triptychs of the Blue Mountains. His landscapes were mountain scenes prepared in the manner of Jackson Pollock and completed with washes and pale glazes of colour. His cityscapes featured a rich paint surface and sharp-edged thickness of paint applied with a palette knife, layer upon layer. He painted urban scenes of Sydney, inland Australian scenes, and several major portraits including Sir Winston Churchill’s gardener (purchased by Art Gallery of NSW). He made many small informal portrait-drawings of friends. His usual signature was “Zusters”.

His work is represented in numerous public and private collections in Australia and abroad. He won numerous prestigious awards in Australia, Japan and USA and was honoured with the Order of Australia Medal in 1994.

F.W.D. Rost
Venita Salnajs
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