The Artists

Eugene von Guerard


Born Vienna 1811, Died London 1901

oil on board, 23 x 30.4 cm
Private Collection
Note Alternative Title for this work:
Mr Andrew Wittle's Residence at Apollo Bay, with Cape Patton in the distance.

Apollo Bay is a popular beachside holiday resort situated 187 kilometres south west of Melbourne on the south coast of Victoria.

Captain Loutit named the bay after his schooner 'Apollo'. However, the town when surveyed in 1854 was known as Middleton, and in December 1874, the Governor-in-Council gazetted the area 'Krambruk', the Aboriginal term for 'sandy place'.

Over the years, Apollo Bay was commonly applied to both town and bay, and this usage for the town was officially recognized in 1952.

The Kolakngat (Kolijon) Aborigines are thought to have occupied the area before European settlement.

The view provided by Eugene von Guerard in this work is towards the north east, from Apollo Bay to Cape Patton to the extreme right in the distance. The view is past a number of headlands. The nearest, in dark shadow, is Wild Dog Creek, situated approximately three kilometres from Apollo Bay. This was reportedly named after a wild dog that was sighted by the creek by an early settler.

The second headland, a further three kilometres further up the coast, is Skene's Creek, named after the surveyor, James Skene, who became Secretary for Lands.

Between Skene's Creek and Cape Patton, and situated approximately ten kilometres from Apollo Bay is Wongarra, named after the Aboriginal term for 'place where wild pigeons camp'.

Cape Patton is situated approximately seventeen kilometres from Apollo Bay and was discovered and named by Lieutenant James Grant in the 'Lady Nelson' on 7 December 1800.

At the time of this painting, this area of the Victorian coastline was well known to seafarers. As early as the 1830's, the Henty family had established a Whaling Station at Point Bunbury, situated east of the site of the township of Apollo Bay, and by the 1850's, whalers were regular visitors to the area.

In this work, Eugene von Guerard depicts Mr Wittle's hut, situated on the rise above the dunes at Apollo Bay.

Mr Wittle was the linesman for the newly established telegraph line between Melbourne and Tasmania. The line, which was opened in 1859, was a submarine cable linking Cape Otway with Launceston, via King Island. Cape Otway is situated approximately twenty kilometres along the coast, south west of Apollo Bay. In the Geographical Survey Map: Cape Otway area, 1867, it indicates where the telegraph line was located along the coastline between Cape Otway and Cape Patton.

As shown in this painting, telegraph poles were erected at regular intervals around the coast. However, due to continual breaks, the line was abandoned several months after opening, and in 1869 a new cable was laid from the eastern side of Port Phillip Bay. Mr Wittle's cottage has since disappeared, and many seaside houses have been built along the headlands at Skene's Creek and Wild Dog Creek.

Eugene von Guerard's landscapes, such as this, are important scientific - geological and botanical - references on the coastline of Victoria. It was very important to von Guerard that the depiction of a landscape be 'scientifically correct', and he stated, 'an artist should so far as it is compatible with the effects of a picture, imitate nature, not only in the masses but the details'.

The slopes in von Guerard's work of 1859 look to be more densely vegetated than they are today. In this work, two figures are depicted on the beach, and appear to be watching a small vessel off shore, the mast just visible below Cape Patton.

Today, this beach and the area around Apollo Bay is very popular with tourists. The bay now has a boat harbour for its fishing fleet, and the hinterland is used for dairying, the grazing of sheep, and the timber industry.

Apollo Bay is also one of the major centres along the Great Ocean Road, and is only a few kilometres to the east of the frequently visited Otway National Park. The Great Ocean Road extends 320 kilometres from Torquay to Peterborough and was completed in 1932. Few who travel it today would be aware that when opened, although still unsealed, a toll of 8 shillings and 6 pence was charged for a carload of five people to use the road.

The artist, Eugene von Guerard left London on 17 August 1852, aboard the 'Windermere' and arrived at Geelong, Victoria on 24 December 1852. In 1856, he toured the Western District of Victoria, and again in 1857.

In 1858, he accompanied Nicholas Chevalier and scientist, Alfred Howitt on an expedition from the Dandenong Ranges to Mount Baw Baw and later in that year travelled to Cape Schanck. In 1859, when this work was produced he travelled to the Cape Otway region, and later that year made his only tour of New South Wales. In 1870, he travelled to Wilsons Promontory.

A more detailed entry on the life and works of Eugene von Guerard can be located under the 'Artists of the Heidelberg School' on this Internet site.

The Eugene von Guerard work 'Linesman's Hut with Cape Patton in Distance', 1859, depicted here, was offered for sale by Tim Hogan and Chris Deutscher. Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Australian Paintings. 28 September - 5 November 1978, Catalogue no.7.

Andrew Mackenzie

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Left: Arthur Streeton - Above Us The Great Grave Sky, 1890
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