NORTHCOTE BY SIDE OF BRUNSWICK, MELBOURNE, 1871

Important Australian + International Fine Art
Melbourne
24 April 2024
48

LOUIS BUVELOT

(1814 - 1888)
NORTHCOTE BY SIDE OF BRUNSWICK, MELBOURNE, 1871

oil on canvas on panel

25.5 x 36.0 cm

signed and dated lower centre: L Buvelot / 1871

Estimate: 
$35,000 – $45,000
Provenance

Private collection, Melbourne
Australian Galleries, Melbourne
Private collection, Victoria
Deutscher and Hackett, Melbourne, 16 April 2008, lot 19
Private collection, Adelaide

Catalogue text

We are grateful to Brenda Martin Thomas, wife of the late David Thomas AM, for kindly allowing us to reproduce David's writing in this catalogue entry.

For many colonial artists of the latter half of the nineteenth century, the appeal of the Australian landscape lay in its panoramic splendour and awe-inspiring beauty. Typical of this inclination was Eugene von Guérard who saw the hand of the creator in nature's grandeur, adopting the theme so popular to Romantics of man’s infinitesimal role in the grand scheme of things. With his French-leaning Swiss background, Louis Buvelot’s approach was entirely different, nurtured by the Barbizon School and its transcripts of nature in which the civilising hand of man is always present. While Von Guérard's aesthetic interests were the sublime, Buvelot was a master of the homely scene, those peaceful moments of the day in gentle transition to evening, of ducks by the farmyard pond, folk wending homeward as friendly smoke rises from the homestead chimney. In his day, Buvelot replaced Von Guerard as Melbourne’s most popular artist. The young Heidelberg painters Tom Roberts, Frederick McCubbin and Arthur Streeton saw him as a father figure in the development of landscape painting. On his death in 1888 an era came to an end, popular sentiment being so great that the National Gallery of Victoria renamed their Grosvenor Gallery the Buvelot Gallery in his honour.

Living in the city of Melbourne during the 1860s, Buvelot made many sketching trips into the Victorian countryside, returning to his studio to paint such large canvases as Summer Afternoon, Templestowe, 1866 one of the first works by Buvelot to be purchased for the National Gallery. By 1869 his reputation as the colony’s leading landscape artist was well established. Waterpool at Coleraine, 1871 was acquired the following year as Buvelot played an active role in the newly established Victorian Academy of Arts. Northcote by Side of Brunswick, Melbourne, 1871 belongs to this highly successful and creatively fruitful time. Although the view shows the beginnings of Northcote in the distance, the open foreground invites the eye to engage in the civilised scene of women beside a pond in the sheltered care of gums as cows graze contently nearby. The buildings speak of settlement in harmony with nature, and the blue silhouette of Mt Macedon affords a pleasing backdrop to a characteristically tranquil Buvelot scene. Two 1866 drawings of Northcote are known. Moreover, one of Buvelot’s earliest patrons, George Knowles Parker once owned a painting of Northcote. Some credit him with having ‘discovered’ the artist. Parker married Margaret Bennett, sister of Buvelot’s friend and pupil, Charles Bennett. Many of Buvelot’s works now in the Bendigo Art Gallery originally belonged to Parker and Bennett.

DAVID THOMAS