Eugene von Guérard was the leading painter in the first century of European settlement in Australia. Born in Vienna and trained in the German Romantic tradition, he was one of a number of artists who came to Australia from continental Europe, attracted by the discovery of gold. He arrived in Australia in 1852 and spent about two years prospecting near Ballarat before moving to Melbourne, where he established himself as an artist. He gained a reputation for his landscapes and homestead portraits, and also for his wilderness subjects of waterfalls and mountains.
Purrumbete from across the lake is one of a pair commissioned by Peter and John Manifold, the pioneer settlers of Purrumbete cattle station near Camperdown, in the Western District of Victoria. Von Guérard visited Purrumbete in 1857 where he made several drawings and preparatory sketches. A year later he painted two views, this one from the steep bank near the woolshed, looking back to the homestead with Mount Leura and Mount Sugarloaf behind, and another from the veranda of the homestead across the lake. In this painting, von Guérard expressed his interest in nature and the taming of the land, as well as his talent for close observation.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008