Finally arrived to see the major Eugene von Guérard exhibition at NGV.
Photography for the squattocracy in the 1860s. The pioneering Manifolds even did a commission that showed the view from Purrumbete homestead and then the view looking back at the homestead. Covering all points of view.
Von Guérard painted many sites and one place he made really famous was the Gully. Ferntree Gully – previously known as Dobson’s Gully until von Guérard came along. What a painting. The contrast of the cool ferns with the white eucalypt stumps (a hint of things to come).
The story is told beautifully by Tim Bonyhady in one of my favourite books, The Colonial Earth. Bonyhady tells how Australia’s only art critic of the day, James Smith, wanted to send it to Europe to show the “quality of colonial nature and culture”. A perfect advertisement.
The work was exhibited for a year in a shop front window in Collins Street, Melbourne, and everyone was talking about the lovely place called Ferntree Gully.
All this publicity led inevitably to Fern Fever and disturbingly, fern smuggling.
| Eugene von Guérard, Ferntree Gully in the Dandenong Ranges, 1857 |
A sublime spot in Ferntree Gully… but not for long as in 1861 timber-getters began their work.
By the way the sketch books are wonderful in this exhibition.