Eugene von Guérard Milford Sound, New Zealand 1877–79

Eugene von Guérard

Austria, Germany, Australia, England 1811–1901
Von Guérard is widely regarded as the most important landscape painter in Australia in the mid 19th century. Born in Vienna, the son of a painter of miniatures, he emigrated to Australia from Germany in 1852 to join the Victorian gold rush. He then settled in Melbourne, where he resumed his career as a painter, undertaking extensive sketching tours of Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, New South Wales and New Zealand. He was the first curator and, effectively, the first director of what is now the National Gallery of Victoria. He returned to Europe to live in 1882.

Milford Sound, New Zealand 1877–79

A follower of German Romantic philosophy, Von Guérard believed that his work should express personal insight into the divine through nature. To evoke a sense of awe in his viewers, this painting’s scale is monumental and the viewpoint is set low to exaggerate the tiny size of the visiting vessels among the grand peaks. The ship on the right is the one in which Von Guérard travelled to the fiord in January 1876 on an excursion cruise from Australia. The other boats are sightseeing launches.

Milford Sound became one of the most widely known paintings of New Zealand landscape in the 19th century.

People and places

Milford Sound in New Zealand’s south island had been depicted by European artists since 1851. Von Guérard’s painting shows the view to the northwest, seen from the head of Milford Sound. It shows, from left to right: Mt Phillips, Mitre Peak, The Lion, Mt Pembroke (under snow), Cascade Peak and Bowen Falls.

Related material

The sources for Von Guérard’s painting include many sketchbook drawings.