Born into a family of German immigrants in 1873, Bruno Ertz was raised and received his early education in Manitowoc. At the age of thirteen, Ertz received a watercolor set for Christmas and thus began his love for the arts. Ertz worked in local factories and shipyards until the age of fifteen, when he decided to pursue art full time. This rather risky move was proven fruitful when Ertz sent F.H. Crittenden from the Smithsonian Institute a sample of his works. Crittenden replied, “I have carefully examined your work and have shown it to members of the divisional force. We all think the paintings the finest of their sort that have ever been produced in this country.”
In 1890, Ertz moved to Milwaukee. The following year he opened a studio in the Iron Block building with Frank Bressler until 1892. In 1896, the artist relocated to Detroit, where he became partners with Percy Cuthberg Nash in Nash and Ertz, Portrait Artists for two years. In 1900, Ertz returned to Milwaukee and shared a studio with artists Elizabeth Brah and Lillian E. Rumpel. From 1918 to the early 1920s, Ertz moved to Manitowoc, before returning to Milwaukee during the Depression, where he worked under the Federal Art Project at the Milwaukee Public Museum. There, he would attain staff status and remain until 1948, when he moved to Elgin, Illinois.
Ertz’s works can be found at the Charles Allis Art Museum and the Milwaukee Pubic Museum.