'Near Fernshaw' 1873
The Swiss landscape painter Louis Buvelot arrived in Victoria in 1865 as an experienced and mature artist. Influenced by the French tradition of outdoor painting, he was admired for the way he used paint in a seemingly casual manner, and for revealing unnoticed beauty in the familiar landscape. Buvelot visualised the way that colonial settlers had become comfortable with their environment and no longer saw it as alien.
In Near Fernshaw Buvelot depicted a scene familiar to many city-dwellers: a dense fern glade at a popular summer retreat about 65 kilometres north-east of Melbourne. It was an uncharacteristic subject for Buvelot, who usually depicted rural scenes on the outskirts of Melbourne.
In Near Fernshaw he showed a bush scene in which tree-ferns and straight, tapering gum trees tower above a splitter and his pack horse carrying felled timber along a stretch of dirt road. Although there was considerable tree-felling around Fernshaw at this time, Buvelot depicted the forest in its natural state. His painterly surface suggests the different foliage, and the low viewpoint makes the viewer part of the scene. The splitter and his horse humanise the landscape and make it seem homely and familiar.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008