Unseen von Guerard heads to auction after 145 years

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 22nd March, 2014

An unseen colonial Western District painting by Eugene von Guerard entitled View of Mt Sturgeon and Mt Abrupt from the Crater of Bald Hill 1856, 1869 and still housed in its original Isaac Whitehead frame has emerged from obscurity to be the major feature of Leonard Joel’s fine art auction from 6.30pm Tuesday March 25 at 333 Malvern Road, South Yarra.

The painting was never exhibited and until now was unknown to academics and institutions.

Instead, it was cherished for four generations within the one family.

Eugene von Guerard recorded the view from Bald Hill in 1856, four years after he arrived in Australia. A decade passed before he painted the scene and it was then acquired by grazier John Thornton, whose Mount Myrtoon Station was in the same area.

Inaugural keeper of pictorial collections at National Library of Australia David Thomas writes in the catalogue that von Guerard was drawn to Australia by the Ballarat goldfields and the chance to strike it rich.

“A year later, he settled in Melbourne, returning to his career as a landscape artist,” he said.

He travelled widely throughout Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania and by mid-1856 was again in the Western District 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,” David Thomas said.

“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.”

Von Guerard particularly loved to paint crater lakes, of which this work is a typical example, and has even written the title of the painting on the back in his own hand.

An auction contrast is Martin Sharp’s exuberant and vividly hued Barry Humphries as Dame Edna Everage c1980, replete with eye frames in the shape of the southern continent.

Another highlight is the previously un-exhibited large 1950s Charles Blackman work on paper entitled Two Children c 1953-55.

This work is closely related to his famous schoolgirl series, at the time starting to become more prominent.

Other paintings include Clarice Beckett’s Eternity and Lawrence Dawes’ The Bassoonist’s Burial.

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