Buvelot painted this work expressly for the Melbourne International Exhibition of 1880–81. Ten years later, the American critic Sidney Dickinson proposed that it was indeed ‘the most important landscape that has ever been produced with an Australian subject. Its somewhat prosaic title’, he added, ‘is redeemed by the skilfulness of the painting, and by the admirable way in which the characteristics of colonial atmosphere and foliage are indicated. The picture is unmistakeably Australian, and combines in a high degree the best elements of realism and ideality.’ (Sidney Dickinson in Australasian Critic, vol. 1, no. 11, August 1891, p. 264).
This, Buvelot’s largest picture, was painted in the valley of the Goulburn River, about 100 kilometres north of Melbourne. He worked on it in the field for six weeks, contrasting its subdued, shaded foreground with a light-filled distance. As with a number of his paintings, he subtly suggested a narrative context. In this case it is an important national one: the wool dray has just left the homestead and is making its way towards the Melbourne road and the wool markets of the world.
Although Buvelot was to paint for a few years yet, he felt his health was failing, yet this painting shows no sign of this weakness, however, and is painted with a glorious freedom, bordering on abstraction, particularly in the distant hills. It was his last great painting, heralding the end of his painting career.
Text © National Gallery of Victoria, Australia