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An image of A fig tree on American Creek near Wollongong, NSW by Eugene von Guérard

Eugene von Guérard

(England, Australia, Germany, Austria 17 Nov 1811 – 17 Apr 1901)

A fig tree on American Creek near Wollongong, NSW
Other titles:
Figtree on American Creek near Wollongong
A figtree on American Creek near Wollongong, N.S.W.
Media category
Materials used
oil on canvas

83.7 x 66.1 cm stretcher; 105.5 x 86.8 x 9.0 cm frame

Signature & date
Signed and dated l.l. corner, red oil "Eugen von Guérard 1861".
Purchased 1996
Accession number
19th c Australian art
Further information

'A fig tree on American Creek, near Wollongong, NSW' depicts an enormous native fig tree set amongst cabbage-tree palms and other sub-tropical vegetation, apparently viewed against the Illawarra escarpment, south of Sydney. Staying at the Fig Tree Hotel near Wollongong in late 1859, Eugene von Guérard drew the well-known nearby giant fig tree. This, together with two sketches of American Creek, provided the basis for this painting, produced in his Melbourne studio two years later.

Von Guérard’s signature placement of a figure within the landscape is positioned to promote a sense of the grandeur of nature, on both a physical and metaphysical level, giving expression to the Romantic spirit at its most intensely symbolic.

Bibliography (28)

Candice Bruce, Eugen von Guérard, Canberra, 1980, 51, 58 (colour illus.), 59, 104 (illus.).

Candice Bruce, Edward Cornstock and Frank McDonald, Eugene von Guérard: A German Romantic in the Antipodes, Martinborough, 1982, 31, 32, 176, 122, 215 (colour illus.). 62; plate no. 27

Candice Bruce, Art and Australia (Vol. 18, No. 2), 'Eugen von Guérard and the Hudson River School: Romantics in the wilderness', pg. 158-164, Sydney, Summer 1980, 161 (colour illus.), 162.

Peter Cochrane, The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Three for the gallery', pg. 16, Sydney, 20 Sep 1996, 16.

Stephen Dover, Illawarra heritage: an introduction to a region, Wollongong, 1983, 19, 24, 37-43. General reference

Barron Field, Geographical memoirs on New South Wales, 'Chapter III: Journal of an excursion to the five islands and Shoval Haven, on the coast of New South Wales', London, 1825. General reference of topography encountered

Christine France., The Illawarra & environs: a pictorial survey, 'Introduction', Wollongong, 1988. 40; titled 'Figtree, Amerikan Creek near Wollongong'; collection: private collection loan to City of Hamilton Art Gallery

Andrew Frost, Conquest of space: science fiction and contemporary art, 'The engine of experience: contemporary art and SF', pg. 5-7, Sydney, 2014, 5, 11 (colour illus.), 43.

Christopher Heathcote, Art Monthly Australia, ‘When science meets art: Humboldt, von Guérard and the Australian wilderness’, pg. 27-31, Acton, Nov 2001, 27-31.

Terry Ingram, Art and Australia (Vol. 34, No. 3), 'Immovable heritage', pg. 380-381, Killara, 1997, 380 (illus.), 381.

Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Australian Collection: Painting and Sculpture', pg. 102-181, Sydney, 1999, 106 (colour illus.).

Gael Newton, Shades of Light - Photography and Australia 1839-1988, 'Amateurs and professionals flourish: 1858', Sydney, 1988, 26, 30, 33. General reference to early photography in Australia

C.F. Nicholls (Editor), Victorian men of the time, Melbourne, 1877, 75.

Ken Orchard, Illawarra: the garden of New South Wales, ‘The landscape Artists’, pg. 7-27, Wollongong, 1994, 20, 23 ( illus.), 41. 70

Michael Organ, Conrad Martens in Illawarra, 1835: in search of the picturesque /, New South Wales, 1987. References artist working in the area

Ruth Pullin, Eugene von Guérard: nature revealed, 'The geography of plants', pg. 154-173, Melbourne, 2011, 161 (colour illus.), 163, 290.

Dianne Reilly and Jennifer Carew, Sun pictures of Victoria: the Fauchery-Daintree collection, 1858, South Yarra, 1983, 9, 12, 13, 76, 77. General reference to early photography in Australia

Rod Ritchie, Red cedar in Australia, 'The red cedar timber industry in New South Wales and Queensland', pg. 42-59, Glebe, 2004, 44-49. General reference

Rod Ritchie, Seeing the rainforests in 19th-century Australia, 'Green tangle of the brushes', pg. 65-90, Paddington, 1989, 75-77, 84 (colour illus.), 159. Private Collection, Victoria. On loan to the City of Hamilton Art Gallery.

Anne Ryan, Australian art: in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Colonial eyes', pg. 17-36, Sydney, 2000, 18, 28 (colour illus.), 300.

G.P. Smith (Editor), Age, Melbourne, 03 Oct 1864.

Charles Summers, Catalogue of the Victorian exhibition of fine arts, Melbourne, 1861, 4. 15; titled 'A Fig Tree on the American Creek, near Wollongong, NSW'.

Wendy Symonds (Editor), Look, 'Close-Ups of the Collection', pg. 6, Heidelberg, Nov 1997, 6 (illus.).

Marjorie Tipping, Eugen von Guérard's Australian Landscapes, Melbourne, 1975, 19-23, 66, 72, 106.

Editor Unknown (Editor), The Melbourne leader: a weekly journal of news, politics and literature, 'Eugene von Guerard’, pg. 24, Melbourne, 06 Jul 1867, 24. ‘Figtree on the American Creek, Wollongong’, for Henry Youngman, Esq., is listed as one of a group of principle pictures painted by the artist in Melbourne since 1854.

Editor Unknown, The Melbourne leader: a weekly journal of news, politics and literature, 'Victorian Art exhibition', pg. 12, Melbourne, 05 Oct 1861, 12.

Author Unknown, Illustrated Australian News - Supplement, 27 Jul 1867, 8-13.

Editor Unknown (Editor), Argus, Melbourne, 03 Oct 1861, 5.

Exhibition history (6)

Victorian exhibition of fine arts (1861), Studio of Charles Summers, Melbourne, 1861–1861

Eugene von Guérard:

The Illawarra & environs: a pictorial survey, Wollongong City Gallery, Wollongong, 09 Jun 1988–31 Jul 1988

Illawarra: The garden of New South Wales, Wollongong City Gallery, Wollongong, 25 Nov 1994–08 Jan 1995

Eugene von Guérard: nature revealed:

Conquest of space: science fiction and contemporary art, College of Fine Art Galleries, UNSW, 22 May 2014–05 Jul 2014

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