Having returned on 22 December 1862 from an epic journey with explorer and scientist Georg von Neumayer to Mount Kosciuszko in northern Victoria, von Guérard was soon bent on further travel into the Victorian countryside. In March 1864, he travelled to Mount Macedon, where he sketched the volcanic outcrop of Hanging Rock. Then, in May, he headed to the Western District, where his first stop was Yalla-y-Poora, the pastoral station of John Ware, which had a stylish homestead and outbuildings constructed from bluestone, and a garden and environs of native and English trees.
This painting is a tribute to John Ware’s mastery of the land at Yalla-y-Poora and a celebration of his success in establishing a lifestyle of elegance and luxury. Von Guérard’s depiction of this well-ordered environment under an expansive Australian sky exudes a sense of calmness and prosperity. Members of the Ware family are present on the portico of the house, waving farewell to their guests, whose carriage is bearing them away along the elegantly curving path towards the bridge over the lake. But the viewer is also made aware that this bountiful scene is the result of hard work and industry. That Yalla-y-Poora is a fully operational sheep station, and a large one at that, is evidenced by the huge woolshed which centrally occupies the far middle distance, drawing the viewer’s eye to Mount Challicum, the highest peak in the far distance. The productivity of Ware’s enterprise can be appreciated also by the number of station hands occupied with various tasks, by the orchard, the windmills, the sheep dip, the fenced paddocks and the ornamental lake itself, which was created by damming Fiery Creek.
Although Yalla-y-Poora represents one of von Guérard’s most ambitious and grand homestead paintings, it was also one of the last of this genre to be executed by him. While the Wares continued to support von Guérard by purchasing his works, the fashion for homestead portraits had diminished, for, as the colony grew, pastoral families became more assured of their status, and they had less need to provide visual evidence of their achievements.