Works included in this catalogue
Guérard Mount Kosciusko 1866 {1870} NGV [PA]
Guérard Spring in the valley of the Mitta Mitta 1866 {1866} NGV [PA]
Guérard 95 drawings of Melbourne, Ballarat etc. 1852-56 {1902} SLV [DR]
Guérard Australian Landscapes [Nos.1-24] {1868} SLV [PR]

Von Guérard, who worked in Australia between 1852 and 1881, received early recognition in the new Melbourne collection through the acquisition of his two 1866 canvases and the set of landscape lithographs bought in 1868 (as listed above). It should also be noted that F.G.Dalgety, a significant early donor to the Melbourne collection, was also a major patron of the painter during the 1950s and early 60s (see references below, for details).

In 1870, von Guérard was appointed master of the new NGV art school, reflecting the high regard in which he was held by Redmond Barry in particular. However, his emphasis on traditional methods of instruction met with considerable opposition from the emerging “Heidelberg School” painters studying there (see now the discussion in Leigh Astbury’s City Bushmen [1985]), possibly contributing to his resignation and return to Austria in 1881.

It may also explain subsequent failure to acknowledge his significant contribution to Australian painting during the third quarter of the 19th century. This neglect, which began with the ascendancy of Roberts, Streeton and their colleagues, was still apparent as late as the 1960s and early 1970s, when both Bernard Smith and Robert Hughes gave him scant attention in their surveys of Australian painting.

While in charge of the Gallery art school, he also played a key role in the early development of the library’s collections of art and other objects. As Michael Varcoe-Cocks explained recently, von Guérard acted as the first curator of the collections, introducing more effective cataloguing procedures, addressing the restoration and display of works of art, and also advising occasionally on purchases. His recommendation of the acquisition of Tocqué [attrib.] Portrait of a Gentleman {1876} NGV [PA] is particularly notable (refer linked entry for further details).

Shortly before von Guérard’s resignation in 1881, Sir George Verdon formally approved the purchase of the artist’s large personal collection of coins and medals, now held by Museums Victoria (some of them transferred from the NGV as late as 1976).


The most important recent studies of von Guérard are by Ruth Pullin: see now Pullin Nature Revealed (2011); Pullin La Trobe Journal (2014); and Pullin Artist as Traveller (2018); she has also been generous in discussing the artist’s pre-Felton works with me in the preparation of this catalogue (2019). For significant earlier studies, see Candice Bruce, Eugen Von Guerard, Canberra: NGA, 1980; Kerr Dictionary (1992), pp.327-29 (entry by Candice Bruce & Edward Comstock); Bonyhady Images in Opposition (1985) and Bonyhady The Colonial Earth (2000), both passim; and McDonald, Art of Australia, vol.1 (2008), pp.182-202, a detailed and laudatory account, mentioning later neglect of his work (Bernard Smith [1962/1971] and Robert Hughes [1966/1970] are both cited by McDonald on p.182, quoting Hughes’ one-line dismissal of von Guérard as a “hack”!)

For von Guérard’s role as an art teacher at the Gallery school, see Astbury, City Bushmen (1985), esp.pp.18-22, and the more recent analysis of Michael Varcoe-Cocks, “The act of painting,” in Pullin Nature Revealed (2011), pp.28-35; see also John Sharples, “The coin collector,” ibid., pp.242-43

I am very grateful to Geoffrey Edwards, former Director of the Geelong Gallery, for alerting me (May 2020) to Dalgety’s remarkable collection of von Guérards. These included View of Geelong 1856 (Geelong Art Gallery):; View of Hobart Town 1856 (private collection): (essay by Ken Wach); Ferntree Gully in the Dandenong Ranges 1857 (National Gallery of Australia):; Weatherboard Falls 1862 (NGV, presented through the Art Foundation of Victoria in 1989): (Dalgety arranged for this work to be exhibited at the Royal Academy, London, in 1865); and a pair of New Zealand landscapes bought in 1880, including Milford Sound 1887-89 (Art Gallery of NSW): (purchased by Dalgety in Melbourne in 1880 with its pair, Lake Wakatipu)