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Eugene Guerard

 (1811 - 1901)
Eugene Guerard was active/lived in Australia, England, Austria.  Eugene Guerard is known for Romantic wilderness landscape painting, mining scenes.

Eugene Guerard

Biography from the Archives of askART

Johann Joseph Eugene von Guérard (17 November 1811 - 17 April 1901) was an Austrian-born artist, active in Australia from 1852 until 1882. In Australia, this artist is usually referred to as Eugene von Guerard.

Born in Vienna, von Guerard toured Italy with his father (a painter of miniatures at the court of Emperor Francis I of Austria) from 1826, and between 1830 and 1832 resided in Rome, where he became involved with the Nazarenes, a group of German expatriate* artists. From 1849 to 1854 he studied landscape painting at the Düsseldorf Academy*, and traveled widely.

Von Guerard's personal artistic style was formed by the heritage of Claude Lorrain, Nicolas Poussin and Salvator Rosa, while at the Düsseldorf Academy he was inspired by the German Romantic* landscape tradition exemplified by the art of Caspar David Friedrich, which, like the Nazarenes, attempted to link man and God through nature.

In 1852 von Guerard arrived in Victoria, Australia, determined to try his luck on the Victorian goldfields. As a gold-digger he was unsuccessful, but he did produce a large number of intimate studies of goldfields life, quite different from the deliberately awe-inspiring landscapes for which he was later to become famous.  Realizing that there were opportunities for an artist in Australia, he abandoned the diggings and was soon undertaking lucrative commissions recording the dwellings and properties of wealthy pastoralists.

By the early 1860s von Guerard was recognized as the foremost landscape artist in the colonies, touring Southeast Australia and New Zealand in pursuit of the sublime* and the picturesque*. He is most known for the wilderness paintings produced during this time, which are remarkable for their shadowy lighting and fastidious detail.  Indeed, his view of Tower Hill in South Western Victoria was used as a botanical template over a century later when the land, which had been laid waste and polluted by agriculture, was systematically reclaimed, forested with native flora and made a state park. The scientific accuracy of such work has led to a reassessment of von Guerard's approach to wilderness painting, and historians believe it likely that the landscapist was strongly influenced by the environmental theories of the leading scientist Alexander von Humboldt.

In 1866 his Valley of the Mitta Mitta was presented to the national gallery at Melbourne; in 1870 the trustees purchased his Mount Kosciusko.  In 2006, the City of Greater Geelong purchased his 1856 painting View of Geelong for A$3.8M.  His painting, Yalla-y-Poora, is in the Joseph Brown Collection on display at the National Gallery of Victoria.

In 1870 von Guerard was appointed the first Master of the School of Painting at the National Gallery of Victoria*, where he was to influence the training of artists for the next 11 years. His reputation, high at the beginning of this period, had faded somewhat towards the end because of his rigid adherence to picturesque subject matter and detailed treatment in the face of the rise of the more intimate Heidelberg School style. Amongst his pupils were Frederick McCubbin and Tom Roberts.

Von Guerard retired from his position at the National Gallery School the end of 1881 and departed for Europe in January 1882. In 1891 his wife died. Two years later, he lost his investments in the Australian bank crash and he lived in poverty until his death in Chelsea, London, on 17 April 1901.


* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

Biography from Leonard Joel
The Viennese-born Eugen von Guérard arrived in Australia in 1852, drawn by the fabulous goldfields of Ballarat and the chance to strike it rich. A year later he settled in Melbourne, returning to his career as a landscape artist. He travelled widely in Victoria, to South Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand, sometimes with his fellow artist Nicholas Chevalier, or accompanying Alfred William Howitt and Professor Georg Balthasar von Neumayer on their scientific or magnetic survey expeditions. Von Guérard's paintings and drawings included commissioned views of pastoral holdings, the spectacular and the sublime. By mid-1856 he was again travelling in the Western District of Victoria, recording its numerous scenic wonders and sheep stations in his field sketchbooks. On the 29 May he reached Bald Hill, making two drawings, including its volcanic crater, with Mounts Sturgeon and Abrupt in the background. Like all his work, they were drawn with such veracity and attention to detail that they enabled him to translate readily his field sketches into presentation drawings or oil paintings at a later time. In August of 1858 he completed a commissioned series of pen and ink drawings, reported in the Melbourne newspaper The Argus as '... representing some of the most beautiful portions of our inland, coast, and river scenery... The views include several craters of extinct volcanoes...'.(2) The drawings were commissioned by John Bakewell to take to England. They so appealed to the then Governor of Victoria that he commissioned 'the artist to execute a series in a similar style'.(3) One of these first fine drawings is the subject of our painting, drawn from the original field sketch, and followed very closely in our oil painting of 1869. Although family tradition has it that von Guérard visited the property and painted the picture on the spot, practice suggests that the oil was derived from the plein air drawing. It was not unusual for von Guérard to paint pictures from drawings well after he first recorded them in his sketchbooks. While the painting View of Mount Abrupt, on the River Wannon, in the Grampians, Western district of Victoria was included in the Victorian Exhibition of Art of December 1856, his drawing recording a bushfire of March 1857 was not translated into oils until 1859. The most famous is his panorama, Old Ballarat as it was in the summer of 1853-4, painted in 1884, (Art Gallery of Ballarat collection) based on a sketch taken during the summer of years before. And so it was with our painting - recorded in the open air of 1856, refined as a brilliant presentation drawing in 1858, and finally celebrated in oil in 1869. From the drawing to the finished painting, von Guérard's focus moved a little closer. Sheep, cattle and a shepherd were added for topicality and scale - man so small amid the grandeur of nature. While sheep graze in pastures green, cows content, and bird life too, all growing things are stated with uncanny botanical accuracy. Mountains of geological fascination crown the horizon, set grandly against a sky of blue decked with clouds, distant rain in an image of plenitude. The atmosphere is so crystal clear that it accentuates the refined detail. All sparkles in the light that bathes the land of promise, heaven's bounty is mirrored in the calm waters. True to his portraits of other pastoral properties, von Guérard presents an image of the riches of settlement in the new world. (1) John Marr was the owner of Burri Burri Station, south-east of Dunkeld. He died in 1858. His wife Elizabeth remarried in April 1859 to the Rev. James Parker and remained on the property. John Thornton (1835-1919) and his brother bought the Mt. Myrtoon property in the 1870s. Thornton, who was a celebrated cricketer, lived at Myrtoon for the rest of his life. (2) Argus, 5 August 1858, p 5 (3) Ibid David Thomas

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About  Eugene Guerard

Born:  1811 - Vienna, Austria
Died:   1901 - Chelsea, London, England
Known for:  Romantic wilderness landscape painting, mining scenes