Old Ballarat as it was in the summer of 1853–4, Eugene von Guerard
  • Artist
    Eugene von Guerard
  • Born
  • Died
  • Title
    Old Ballarat as it was in the summer of 1853–4
  • Date of Production
  • Medium
    oil on canvas mounted on board
  • Dimensions
    75.0 x 138.6 cm
  • Credit Details
    Gift of James Oddie on Eureka Day, 1885

Eugene von Guerard

Old Ballarat as it was in the summer of 1853–4

When the European trained painter Eugene von Guerard arrived in Victoria in 1852 he proceeded to the Ballarat Goldfields where he not only dug for gold but also made a number of sketches of  the place he was eventually to refer to as his 'dear old Ballarat'.  Commissioned by Gallery founder James Oddie to produce a painting of Ballarat at the height of the goldrush, the artist used a drawing that he had made during the final weeks of his sojourn on the diggings as a basis for the present work.

In a letter dated 1884 sent to the Gallery's agent James Smith, the artist describes the painting from the left hand side as follows:-
"...next to the first isolated tree is a tent with a small cross on top, this is the first Catholic church St Alypius…The large tent in the flat represents Rows Circus, the many various larger and smaller ones stores and tents for amusements, etc. On the main road to Buninyong and above and between there [is] the gravel pit lead sloping down the hill to the flat beyond this line on the hillside is a large tent which I believe was the Protestant church."

The painting also shows the Yarrowee Creek before it was diverted and a posse of armed police escorting diggers, found without licences, to the Commissioners' camp. Von Guerard was concerned about the 'monotony' of the foreground and asked that the work be framed before James Oddie saw it. Despite this it has been much praised for its accuracy and detail ever since it was presented to the Gallery by James Oddie on Eureka Day 1885.