The Upper Nepean
27 Aug 1836 - 17 Jul 1914
Piguenit's parents were born in England, his father being of French ancestry, but he was one of the earliest professional painters with a completely Australian background. Born in Hobart, Tasmania, he was mainly self-taught, taking his models from the European romanitc school which focused on motifs of heavy grandeur. His work is closely related to that of emigre Australian artists, Eugene von Guerard and Nicholas Chevalier.
Piguenit joined the Tasmanian Lands Department in 1850 and finally chose to become a full-time painter in 1873. He then moved to Sydney where he gained favourable support from the newly formed Art Gallery of New South Wales, and in fact was the first artist whose work was acquired by it, in 1875.
Considering its date, 'The Upper Nepean' does not comply with the image of landscape that was then the most important expression of its time in Australian art. It reflects not only a European romantic inheritance, but also a sense of curiousity and awe that typifies Australian landscape art preceding the first consolidation of a national school in the later 1880s. However, the subject is a very real part of Australia and recalls in its vision, Piguenit's earlier experience of the waters, mountains and atmosphere of Tasmania.
Barry Pearce, in Bernice Murphy (ed.), 'USSR: Old master paintings', AGDC, Sydney, 1979
The Upper Nepean, N.S.W.
The Upper Nepean, New South Wales
oil on canvas
91.0 x 129.9 cm stretcher; 127.5 x 165.7 x 11.2 cm frame
Signature & date
Signed l.l., black oil "W.C. Piguenit". Not dated.
Shown in 11 exhibitions
Tenth Annual Exhibition of the Art Society of New South Wales (1889), Society Rooms, Union Chambers, Sydney, 1889 -
World's Columbian Exposition, 1893, Jackson Park, Chicago, 01 May 1893–30 Oct 1893
The Australian Landscape (1972-73):
- Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth 04 May 1972–04 Jun 1972
- National Gallery of Victoria [St Kilda Road], Melbourne 04 Jul 1972–04 Aug 1972
- Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart 05 Sep 1972–01 Oct 1972
- Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney 14 Nov 1972–17 Dec 1972
- Newcastle Art Gallery, Newcastle 17 Jan 1973–11 Feb 1973
- Queensland Art Gallery, South Brisbane 01 Mar 1973–01 Apr 1973
European masters and Australian painting from Australian collections:
Samuel Elyard (1817-1910): Landscape painter and photographer, S.H. Ervin Gallery, The Rocks, 01 Jul 1982–08 Aug 1982
A century of Australian landscape painting: mood and moment:
Two centuries of Australian painting, a selection from the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Orange Regional Gallery, Orange, 19 Apr 1986–15 Jun 1986
W.C. Piguenit 1836-1914:
Imagining the West: the first hundred years - the 1790s to 1890s, Penrith Regional Gallery & The Lewers Bequest, Emu Plains, 28 Oct 1994–22 Jan 1995
New Worlds From Old: Australian and American Landscape Painting in the Nineteenth Century:
- National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 07 Mar 1998–17 May 1998
- Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, United States of America 12 Sep 1998–06 Dec 1998
- The Corcoran Gallery of Art, United States of America 26 Jan 1999–18 Apr 1999
Shaded, Dubbo Regional Art Gallery, Dubbo, 28 Aug 2017–03 Dec 2017
Referenced in 37 publications
Edmund Capon, Apollo: the international art magazine, 'Lay of the land', pg. 36-42, London, Jul 2013-Aug 2013, 38, 39 (colour illus.). Feature: Australian landscape art
Deborah Edwards, Two centuries of Australian painting: a selection from the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Introduction', pg. 8-14, Sydney, 1986, 20 (illus.). cat.no. 8
Suzanne Fraser, For Auld Lang Syne: images of Scottish Australia from First Fleet to Federation, 'Scottish Art, Highlandism and the colonial art museum', pg. 229-237, Ballarat, 2014, 236, 237 (colour illus.).
Simon Gregg, New romantics: darkness and light in Australian art, 'The glacial', pg. 96-129, North Melbourne, 2011, 106, 108 (colour illus.).
Australian artists: Some have real artistic merit and the collection is credible', Chicago Daily Tribune, 'Pictures, pg. 9, Chicago, 08 Jun 1893, 9.
Barry Pearce, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Australian', pg. 13-35, Sydney, 1988, 16.
Ken Sheldrick, Antiques and art Australasia, 'William Charles Piquenit', Sydney, 22 Dec 1970, 10 (illus.).
Clare Temple, Foundation Newsletter #24, 'Curators' and coordinators' reports', pg. 8-11, Sydney, Jul 2014, 11.
Vaurien, The Sydney Morning Herald, 'The Art Gallery', pg. 5, Sydney, 13 Dec 1890, 5. see curator's Worksheet
Olivia Welch, Nicole Welch: Eastern interiors: explorations from Bathurst to Albury, 'Nicole Welch: forward reflections', pg. 4-7, Waterloo, 2015, 6 (colour illus.). WC Piguenit's 'The Upper Nepean' is referenced in Nicole Welch's 'Apparitions' series
Images in opposition: Australian landscape painting 1801–1890, 'The wilderness intact', pg. 81-86, Melbourne, 1985, 84, 85 (illus.), 177.
A century of Australian landscape: mood and moment, Sydney, 1983, 14, 29 (colour illus.). cat.no. 12
Landscape art and the Blue Mountains, Australia, 1981, 100 (illus.).
Old master paintings from the USSR: A survey of four centuries of European art. Report, Sydney, 1979, (illus.). cat.no. 55
The Australian landscape and its artists, Rushcutters Bay, 1977, 36, 38 (colour illus.).
The Australian landscape, Adelaide, 1972. cat.no. 18
W.C. Piguenit 1836-1914: retrospective, Hobart, 1992, 52 (colour illus.) 101, 103. cat.no. 24
Masterpieces of Australian painting, Melbourne, 1969, 45 (colour illus.). plate no. 7
Catalogue of the National Art Gallery of New South Wales 1899, Sydney, 1899. cat.no. 270, Oil Paintings-Australian
Mercury, Hobart, 07 Oct 1895, page unknown.
The Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney, 25 May 1895, page unknown.
Daily telegraph, Sydney, 22 Jul 1893, page unknown.
Catalogue of the National Art Gallery of New South Wales 1893, Sydney, 1893, 107. cat.no. 367, Loan collection to Commissioners of the Chicago Exposition
Catalogue of the National Art Gallery of New South Wales 1891, Sydney, 1891, 66. cat.no. 227, Australian Court
New Worlds From Old, 'In Awe of the Land', pg. 153-176, Parkes, 1997, 163 (colour illus.). cat.no. 71
Bulletin, Sydney, 26 Oct 1889, page unknown.
Sydney mail and New South Wales advertiser, Sydney, 19 Oct 1889, reproduced as black and white woodcut.
Illustrated Sydney News, Sydney, 17 Oct 1889, reproduced as black and white woodcut.
Sydney mail and New South Wales advertiser, Sydney, 12 Oct 1889, page unknown.
The Sydney Morning Herald, 'The Art Society's Exhibition', pg. 4, Sydney, 04 Oct 1889, 4. see curator's Worksheet
Art Society of New South Wales Spring Exhibition Catalogue (1889), Sydney, 1889, 6, 11 (illus.). cat.no. 17; titled 'The Upper Nepean, N.S.W.'; price £84.0.0
Catalogue of the National Art Gallery of New South Wales 1888, Sydney, 1888. cat.no. 161, Oil Paintings, Titled 'The Upper Nepean, NSW'
Australian painting 1788-1990, 'The late Colonial artists 1851-1885', pg. 48-70, South Melbourne, 1991, 53 (colour illus.), 59-60. plate no. 38
Australian landscape 1802-1975, 'The Australian Landscape', Adelaide, 1972. cat.no. 18; not shown in Adelaide [replaced by Tom Roberts work from NGV]
The book of the fair; an historical and descriptive presentation of the world's science, art, and industry, as viewed through the Columbian Exposition at Chicago in 1893, 'Chapter the Twenty-First: Fine Arts', pg. 665-764, Chicago, 1893, 728.
Selling a nation: Australian artists at International Exhibitions [M.A., University of Sydney], 'Organisation of the New South Wales display in Chicago', pg.18-45, Sydney, 2001, between 24-25 (colour illus.), 25, 26, 27, 52. figure no. 10