13th March 1929 – 12th December 2003
Distinguished Queensland Artist and Teache
Merv Muhling was born in 1929 in Toowoomba to parents of German heritage. The Muhling family had migrated to Australia from Wertheim Germany in the 1850’s, settling in rural areas of Queensland.
Merv’s parents were farmers and for the first two years of his life he lived on a farm on the Darling Downs. After this time the family moved to a dairy farm at Kogan near the town of Chinchilla, an area that provided a rich visual heritage for his later artwork.
Merv gained his initial art education at the Central Technical College in George Street Brisbane, studying with artists Cyril Gibbs and Melville Haysom. From an early age he worked at Teachers Colleges and Colleges of Advanced Education and had a profound influence as a dedicated teacher of art. He was an educator of artists and art teachers impacting on generations of people in the art field. He wrote articles in professional journals on aspects of art and co – authored a book. He loved nothing more that a good discussion and argument about art.
It was through his influence that the Sydney Art Dealer Ray Hughes was introduced to art. Ray’s Gallery is among the finest in the country. Merv was always able to see talent and passion and was generous with his guidance. As a collector for the institutions where he worked I would say he was one of the first to collect Indigenous Art and was always an insightful collector of Contemporary Australian Art. His influence and dedication have contributed to the Queensland University of Technology’s excellent collection.
In 1977 – 1978 Merv went to Rochester New York State USA on sabbatical leave to complete a Master of Fine Art at Rochester Institute of Technology. While there his talents were recognized and he was invited to stay as a lecturer on the full time staff. Though the offer was tempting he chose to return home.
Merv truly was a self made man of immense talent. He saw himself first as an Artist and second as an Educator.
As an artist he showed talent in oil painting, sketching, leatherwork, woodwork, pottery, jewelry, and although he achieved great success as a gold and silversmith it was in sculpture that he found his true interest.
Up until the time of his death Merv showed with the Ray Hughes Gallery first in Brisbane and then in Sydney.
I will remember Merv as one of the country’s finest Sculptors. But for many it will take time to reveal all of this, even though there are works in the Queensland Art Gallery and a large number in the Queensland University of Technology collection, some gifted by his wife and family. Some five years ago Merv was invited to take up the position as artist in residence at the University in Kuala Lumpur for a twelve month term. Though greatly honoured by the invitation he turned it down to build his new studio and start some major works he had planned.
Merv’s last major work is the bronze sculpture “Crocheted Doily” installed at the Roma Street Parkland. The artist’s modesty and quiet reflective nature has left so much unknown about his life and work. His later work was complex with a deep understanding of form and the nature of materials. His sculptures often reflect pioneer architecture, furniture and objects, using memories of his early life near Chinchilla.
I owe Merv an enormous debt for his encouragement and he collected my work from my first exhibition in 1967 for the University collection.
Merv’s work renews our consciousness of the Australian Spirit and our unique landscapes. He was able to evoke in us a feeling of place and belonging.
Written and read at his funeral by son Peter Muhling
Funeral service held on Wednesday the 17th of December, 2003.
At: The Indooroopilly Uniting Church Brisbane.
“Thank you for coming today from near and far.
I would like to share with you some of my dad Merv Muhling’s life.
Merv was born on the 13th of March 1929 in Toowoomba to the proud parents Peter and Matilda Muhling.
On seeing this newborn boy the Matron at the hospital nicknamed him Billy Boy.
He was the third youngest of eight children. His siblings were from eldest to youngest Sydney (deceased), Granville (deceased), Kenneth, Daphne, Alice, Mervyn, Thelma (deceased) and Valma.
The Muhling family migrated to Australia from Wertheim Germany in the 1850’s, settling in the Darling Downs district of Queensland.
Merv’s parents were farmers and for the first two years of his life he lived on a farm at Nutgrove on the Darling Downs.
After this time the family moved to a dairy farm at Kogan near the town of Chinchilla. It was here that he started school at Kalambo Primary. When asked his name on the first day he replied Billy and Mervyn. After a couple of years he changed to a new school closer to home, Kogan North Primary. This was built on land gifted by his father.
Early every morning before school Merv’s first job was to help milk the cows. There were always plenty of chores to keep the family busy on this pioneering farm environment.
The dairy always had cats as they helped to keep the mouse population around the barn under control. As a boy Merv loved cats and has always had cats around his home.
In grade seven Merv won a scholarship to Secondary School. His parents recognized his academic talents and moved to Toowoomba. There he went to Toowoomba High School and Technical College. Eventually the family farm was taken over by his three older brothers Sidney, Granville and Kenneth.
Merv’s two great ambitions while at secondary school were to be a country and western singer, (he idolized Gordon Parsons) and to be an architect.
On completing his secondary education the school principal talked him out of a career in architecture. He began studying dentistry at the University of Queensland. He soon decided dentistry was not for him and joined the workforce as an apprentice with the P.M.G. (now part of Telstra) This was also to be a very brief part of his career path and at the age of 19 began studies at the Kelvin Grove Teachers College in Brisbane.
By the age of 21 Merv graduated as a teacher and took up his first posting at a one teacher school in the small town of Cement Mills in southern Queensland.
During these years Merv pursued his love as a Country and Western singer.
He was often found performing at a pub in the Red Hill area on a Saturday night, while studying at the Kelvin Grove Teachers College, and I believe he had quite a large following. He really looked the part with his black and white outfit, matching black and white leather cowboy boots (made by R.M. Williams) and of course his guitar.
Merv’s talents as an educator were recognized at an early age and by the time he was 24 he was back from the country, lecturing at Kelvin Grove Teachers College.
During this time he studied art at the Brisbane Technical College at night and after seven years gained his Diploma of Art.
Not long after completing his diploma he became head of the Art Department at the newly formed Kedron Park Teachers College and remained at that level until his retirement in 1988 at age 59.In 1977 – 1978 Merv went to Rochester New York State USA on sabbatical leave to complete a Master of Fine Art at Rochester Institute of Technology. While there his talents were recognized and he was invited to stay as a lecturer on the full time staff.
Though the offer was tempting he chose to return home.
Merv truly was a self made man of immense talent. He saw himself first as an Artist and second as an Educator.
As an artist he showed talent in oil painting, sketching, leatherwork, woodwork, pottery, jewelry, metal smithing, and sculpture.
His work has been represented in galleries in Australia and Overseas. He had a long association with Ray Hughes Galleries in Sydney.
He was an educator of artists and art teachers impacting on generations of people in the art field. He wrote articles in professional journals on aspects of art and co-authored a book. He loved nothing more than a good discussion and argument about art.
His artistic sensibilities were highly developed and these talents were used in his contribution to the building of art collections at Kedron Park Teachers College and Queensland University of Technology.
Some five years ago Merv was invited to take up the position of Artist in Residence at the University in Kuala Lumpur for a twelve-month term. Though greatly honored by the invitation he turned it down.
Merv’s last major work is the bronze sculpture “Crocheted Doyley” installed in 2001 at the Roma Street Parklands in Brisbane. “Crocheted Doyley” was created in difficult times when he was affected by the illness Multi System Atrophy (MSA). This is testimony to both his courage and his talent.
Merv was a devoted family man. He met his wife to be, (Valma), at teachers college at the age of 20. Val was attracted to Merv because of his lively passionate nature and possibly because of his country and western singing style.
After a three-year courtship they were married on the 27th of December 1952 in Brisbane at St Andrews Anglican Church South Brisbane. They have always been in love and have had a wonderful partnership that spanned close on fifty-one years.
Merv was soon to learn that he had married into a family of practical jokers. On the return trip from their honeymoon at the Blue Mountains Merv was given a parcel from one of Val’s Uncles in Sydney. He was told to handle this parcel with great care as it contained very delicate machine parts. Merv nursed this parcel with great care on the train journey back to Brisbane. On arrival the parcel was promptly delivered to Val’s father only to discover that the content was a common house brick. Welcome to the Jorgensen family.
Merv was the father of two children, a son Peter born 1959, and a daughter Cathy born 1962. As a father Merv was a loving and caring man deeply loved and respected by his children. Merv always put his family first.
In their early years of childhood Peter and Cathy would sit around the kitchen table listening attentively to their father reading a story. As a treat every now and then he would take out his guitar and sing the children a song, a favourite was about a dog-called Shep.
Merv spent many hours creating magnificent craft works for his family such as a Kayak, Doll’s House, and Indian Head Dress. His creative talents were used around the home landscaping, building stonewalls and cabinetwork. He was an immensely talented craftsman.
Merv loved the open spaces of country Australia. During the early years the family travelled to many outback regions of QLD, NT, WA and NSW in the four-wheel drive. In the later years Merv and Val travelled around Australia by four-wheel drive camping at some very spectacular parts of the country. Other outback adventures such as the Canning Stock Route were to follow.
Many family holidays were spent at Fraser Island fishing, camping, four-wheel driving and exploring. Merv loved fishing spending many hours with his family and close friends Spencer and Robyn Faulkner fishing the beaches of Fraser Island.
Merv’s family circle has grown over the years with three wonderful grandchildren, Christopher, Lewis and Ava and son in law Colin. Merv and Val would often visit their children and families living in Melbourne. Being a very close family group Christmas and holidays were spent together every year either in Victoria or Queensland.
Merv loved sport and would passionately barrack for his beloved Queensland in whatever event they were represented. He followed the Brisbane Lions very closely watching just about every AFL match they played in. When Merv was younger he enjoyed playing tennis and squash.
Merv was a quite achiever. He was humble, honest, kind, good listener, good communicator and had a dry sense of humour.
Over the last few years while he battled Multi System Atrophy he showed incredible strength and courage. He never complained and he always looked to ways of overcoming his problems.
Despite his many challenges he was constantly planning and setting new goals. His most recent major goal was the Art Studio construction had been planned to start in January 2004.
Some lessons to be learned from Merv would be “Never give up” and “Never stop dreaming and setting goals”.
When you have travelled on a journey through life with a man you have loved and respected so much you never want to say good-bye. Yet today the time has come when we must all say good-bye to Mervyn Muhling.
You will be greatly missed and will always be in our hearts and in our minds.”