sculptor and carver, was born Ernestine Haim in Constantinople (Istanbul) in December 1887, daughter of a Yugoslavian father and an Italian mother. The family lived first in Vienna, then in Berlin where Tina attended the Woman’s Art School, women not then being permitted to enrol at the Berlin Academy. Her carved limestone bust of her sister was hung in a Berlin Secessionist exhibition (c.1905). She later spent about three years studying at the Académie Julian, Paris (c.1912-14).

Forced to return home at the outbreak of World War I, Tina worked as a portraitist and made reproductions for the Berlin Academy of some of the treasures unearthed in the Tel Amarna excavations, including a copy of the head of Nefertiti which was on display for years at the Bode Museum while the original was kept in the vaults. In about 1915 she married a Prussian academic painter, Julius Wentscher (spelt 'Wentcher’ in Australia) but continued to exhibit as Haim. After the war, the couple travelled to Greece, Italy, Egypt and Abyssinia. In Greece she met painters and poets bent on reviving Greek folk culture and made two miniature bronze copies of the Delphic Charioteer.

In 1931 the Wentchers won a cruise to South East Asia at a Press Ball and left Germany for an intended six months visit. The holiday was extended as the political situation in Germany worsened. They spent three years in Bali and Java, then visited China, Thailand, Cambodia and Malaysia, remaining at the last for five years. Tina (as Haim-Wentscher) received numerous commissions for portrait busts and held several exhibitions in Malaysia. She also worked in 'the native beeswax … to produce portraits and figure designs of tremendous delicacy and intensity’, O’Connor notes. Virtually all were lost during World War II, apart from some small pieces brought to Australia. Peers considers these 'late reflection of the Jugendstil ' to be her best work. With her husband, she also produced large dioramas of life on Malaysian plantations for the government to exhibit at the 1937 Glasgow Empire Exhibition and the 1939 San Francisco World Fair.

In 1940, following the outbreak of war, the Wentchers were deported to Australia and interned until 1943. On their release they set up professionally in Melbourne, holding a joint exhibition at the Kozminsky Galleries. Tina joined the Melbourne Society of Women Painters and Sculptors. Her Bessarabian Boy , a small bronze head acquired by the National Gallery of Victoria, was stolen in 1945 so she made a pewter replica at her own expense in 1946. That year, she and Julius were naturalised.

Tina Wentcher’s first solo exhibition was held in 1951 at Georges Gallery, Melbourne. She exhibited with the Contemporary Art Society, the Victorian Artists’ Society, the Society of Artists (NSW) and elsewhere. A joint exhibition with her husband was held at the National Gallery of Victoria in 1974. After she died the Association of Sculptors of Victoria set up an annual prize in her memory. The Queen Victoria Hospital and the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne, own commissioned works. The McClelland Gallery, Langwarrin holds numerous small sculptures, including several executed in South-East Asia.

Kerr, JoanNote: Heritage biography.
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