|Eugene von Guerard 1870-1874, by John Botterill,|
Image held by the State Library of Victoria
Perhaps the best-known von Guerard painting of the Barwon River is View of Geelong which was purchased in 2006 by the City of Greater Geelong for $3.8 million and now hangs in the Geelong Art Gallery. Another well-known von Guerard painting, which hangs at the National Gallery of Victoria is titled Warrenheip Hills Near Ballarat and purports to show Mt Warrenheip in the background of a scene through which a small river is flowing - the Yarrowee.
Until recently, the exact location from which the original sketch upon which the painting was based, was unknown. Enter postgraduate student George Hook whose "thesis focuses on fidelity to nature issues in the paintings of leading nineteenth century Australian landscape painter Eugene von Guerard". By consulting a number of people with expertise in geology, art and the local region and undertaking some good old fashioned leg work, Hook was able to pinpoint the location of the rocky pool where von Guerard stood to make his initial sketch.
|Warrenheip HIlls Near Ballarat, Eugene von Guerard, 1854, showing a little-|
seen part of the Yarrowee River. National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Meanwhile, unbeknownst to me, I had also been following in von Guerard's footsteps. As I was later informed, a number of the photos I had previously used in my blog were taken from similar vantage points to some of the sketches made by von Guerard over a century and a half ago.
And so an extended discussion began between myself and George. Could I identify the location of any of the several sketches made by von Guerard of the Barwon River and one intriguing sketch of a part of the Moorabool Valley? Well, in several cases, yes I could, in general terms.
The first sketch to catch my attention was a broad panorama with the annotation (in German) "above Geelong looking towards Lake Connewarre". From which point is it possible to see both Geelong and Lake Connewarre? Well, on a clear day, from what is now Montpellier Park; one of those places I had stood to take photos of Geelong and the Barwon River. I hadn't really noticed previously, but yes, it is possible to catch a glimpse of the lake and even the faint outline of the Bluff at Barwon Heads. After some more discussion on the issue however, I had to rethink my original idea.
Could the view toward Lake Connewarre actually have been sketched from somewhere closer to Newtown? In retrospect, the angles of the river work better from there and some more discussion leads us to suspect that the sketch may actually have been made from somewhere near 'The Heights', the homestead erected for local businessman Charles Ibbotson in 1854, overlooking the Barwon River. Whilst this is speculation, it is quite possible that von Guerard may have met Ibbotson - perhaps through a mutual acquaintance. In April, 1854 when the sketch of Lake Connewarre was made, von Guerard also made sketches from the newly-built home of Frederick Bauer, a German ironmonger who also owned a property overlooking the Barwon River and who is attributed with having erected 'The Heights' for Ibbotson - more of whom later.
|Above Geelong looking towards Lake Connewarre, Eugene von Guerard, 24th April 1854|
|Footings of 'Highton House'|
|Undated sketch from 'Highton House'|
|1855 sketch of Corio Bay, the You Yangs, the Barwon River and Geelong|
|The same view worked in pen and ink and dated 1859|
|View of Geelong, 1856|
|And the same view 155 years later in July, 2011 complete with von Guerard clouds!|