Eugene von Guerard

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Eugene von Guerard
Eugene von Guerard (1811–1901).jpg
Johann Joseph Eugen von Guérard

(1811-11-17)November 17, 1811
Vienna, Austria
DiedApril 17, 1901(1901-04-17) (aged 89)
Notable work
View of Geelong,
Waterfall, Strath Creek

Johann Joseph Eugene von Guérard[Note 1] (17 November 1811 – 17 April 1901) was an Austrian-born artist, active in Australia from 1852 until 1882. Known for his finely detailed landscapes in the tradition of the Düsseldorf school of painting, he is represented in Australia's major public galleries, and is referred to in the country as Eugene von Guerard.

Early life[edit]

Born in Vienna, Austria, 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 a number of German artists. The foremost landscape painter amongst these so-called "Deutsch Römer" was Johann Anton Koch, but he also met there members of the Lukasbund, a group of young German breakaway artists known as the Nazarenes,[1] From 1841[1] he studied landscape painting in Germany at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf and travelled widely. Von Guerard's personal artistic style was formed by his first teacher, his miniaturist father with whom he travelled throughout Italy. Other influences ascribed to von Guerard are Claude Lorrain, Nicolas Poussin and Salvator Rosa. During his studies at the Düsseldorf Academy he absorbed the new criterion for German art promoted by his landscape lecturer Johann Wilhelm Schirmer under the directorship of ex-Nazaren member Wilhelm von Schadow: to present "elevated" subject matter in the style of a new "truthful"' realism. The Düsseldorf style of painting combined concepts of prevailing trends: Historicism, a lingering Romanticism and a new visually based Realism that required taking observations from nature.[1] Von Guerards Australian landscapes show his sensitive perception of the Australian landscape, whilst his stylistic methodology exemplifies the confluence of various styles derived from his European artistic heritage.[1]


Bush fire between Mount Elephant and Timboon, 1857
North-east View from the Northern Top of Mount Kosciusko, 1863

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,[2] quite different from the deliberately awe-inspiring landscapes for which he was later to become famous.

By the early 1860s von Guerard was recognised as the foremost landscape artist in the colonies, touring Southeast Australia and New Zealand in pursuit of the sublime and the picturesque.[3] 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 some historians believe it likely that the landscapist was strongly influenced by the environmental theories of the leading scientist Alexander von Humboldt. Others attribute his 'truthful representation' of nature to the criterion for figure and landscape painting set by the Düsseldorf Academy.[1]

In 1866 his Valley of the Mitta Mitta was presented to the National Gallery of Victoria in 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.[4] In 2018 another painting, Stoneleigh, Beaufort near Ararat, Victoria (1866) was put on permanent display in the Galleries of the State Library of New South Wales.[citation needed]

Von Guerard's paintings were also purchased by the Art Gallery of New South Wales including Waterfall, Strath Creek (1862),[5] Sydney Heads (1865)[6] and Milford Sound, New Zealand (1877–1879)[7] among many others.[8]

The State Library of New South Wales in Sydney holds 32 sketchbooks which cover von Guerard’s twenty-eight years in Australia and also the period of his early travels in the Rhineland and Italy and his return to Europe after 1881.[9] The drawings include pencil sketches, detailed pen and ink or pencil drawings, and a few with colour added and include works done on scientific expeditions with Alfred William Howitt and Georg von Neumayer, the meteorologist. The sketchbooks cover Italy and Germany, 1835–1852,[10] Australia, 1854–1891,[11] and the English sketchbook, 1891–1900.[12]

The only known copy of von Guerard's 1852–1854 diary of his time on the goldfields is held in England. But a typescript translation made from the original German is held in the State Library of New South Wales.[13] This translation has been digitised and can be viewed online. It consists of one volume of bound extracts from von Guerard's journal, 18 August 1852 – 16 March 1854, with ten original ink illustrations pasted onto leaves at end of volume. Extracts cover his departure from Gravesend England on board the Windermere and the voyage out to Melbourne, his stay at the Eureka and Ballarat goldfields and his departure to Geelong. The translation may have been made by his daughter, Victoria, who was born in Australia and married an Englishman.

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.


  • Eugen von Guerard's Australian landscapes, a series of 24 tinted lithographs […] drawn from nature and lithographed by the artist, with letter press descriptivee of each view (Melbourne: Hamel & Ferguson, 1867).]
  • Ruth Pullin "The Vulkaneifel and Victoria's Western District: Eugène von Guérard and the Geognostic Landscape", in David R. Marshall, Melbourne Art Journal, nos 11–12, 2010.
  • Von Guérard, E., & Tipping, M. (1975). Eugène von Guérard's Australian landscapes / [Text by] Marjorie Tipping ; with a preface by Joseph Burke. (1st ed.]. ed.). Melbourne: Lansdowne Press, reference online
  • Pullin, R., Clegg, H., Varcoe-Cocks, M., and National Gallery of Victoria. Council of Trustees. (2011). Eugene von Guérard: Nature Revealed, Ruth Pullin. (1st ed.). Melbourne: Council of Trustees of the National Gallery of Victoria
  • "Eugene von Guérard: Nature Revealed" Archived 6 February 2011 at the Wayback Machine, Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia exhibition, 16 April –7 August 2011
  • Bruce, Candice; Art Gallery of New South Wales, and Australian Gallery Directors Council. (1980). Eugen von Guérard, with an introduction by Daniel Thomas. Sydney: Australian Gallery Directors Council in conjunction with the Australian National Gallery


  1. ^ His first name is variously spelled "Eugen", "Eugene", "Eugène", one source mentions "Jean" (instead of "Johann"); his surname is spelled "Guerard" or "Guérard". The most frequent combination is that used by the National Gallery of Australia: "Eugene von Guérard". The artist's birth certificate shows his name as "Johann Joseph Eugen von Guerard".[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b c d e Karin Neumann Murphy: "Eugen von Guerard and the German arts in Australia 1778 to 1890", unpublished thesis, 1996.
  2. ^ "I Have Got It", 1854, at
  3. ^ Eugene von Guérard: North-east View from the Northern Top of Mount Kosciusko, 1863 at the National Gallery of Australia
  4. ^ Yalla-y-Poora[permanent dead link] at the National Gallery of Victoria
  5. ^ von Guérard, Eugene (1862). "Waterfall, Strath Creek". AGNSW collection record. Art Gallery of New South Wales. Retrieved 11 May 2016.
  6. ^ von Guérard, Eugene (1865). "Sydney Heads". AGNSW collection record. Art Gallery of New South Wales. Retrieved 11 May 2016.
  7. ^ von Guérard, Eugene (1877–1879). "Milford Sound, New Zealand". AGNSW collection record. Art Gallery of New South Wales. Retrieved 11 May 2016.
  8. ^ "Eugene von Guérard". AGNSW collection record. Art Gallery of New South Wales. Retrieved 11 May 2016.
  9. ^ Eugene von Guerard sketchbooks, 1835–1900 State Library of New South Wales, retrieved 12 November 2017
  10. ^ Series 01: Sketchbooks used in Italy and Germany, 1835–1852 by Eugene von Guerard, State Library of New South Wales, retrieved 12 November 2017
  11. ^ Series 02: Sketchbooks used in Australia, 1854–1891 by Eugene von Guerard, State Library of New South Wales, retrieved 12 November 2017
  12. ^ Series 03: Sketchbooks used in England, 1891–1900, includes Dusseldorf and six Australian sketches, 1849–1872 by Eugen von Guerard State Library of New South Wales, retrieved 12 November 2017
  13. ^ A pioneer of the fifties : leaves from the journal of an Australian Digger, 18 August 1852 – 16 March 1854 by Johann Joseph Eugen von Guerard, bequeathed by Sir William Dixson to the State Library of New South Wales in 1952, retrieved 12 November 2017

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]