Council’s Arts and Culture portfolio holder Cr Peter McMullin said it was time to bring one of Geelong’s most important cultural treasures to its rightful home.

Speaking at Tuesday night’s Council meeting Cr McMullin said Geelong had an exciting opportunity to secure the highly significant work View of Geelong by celebrated colonial artist Eugene von Guerard.

 

The painting has been in the private collection of famous composer Andrew Lloyd Webber but is now being offered for sale to the Geelong Gallery through Christie’s of London.

On Tuesday night City of Greater Geelong Council agreed to contribute $600,000 toward the purchase of the painting and endorsed the Geelong Gallery’s bid to seek further funding from State and Federal Government and private benefactors.

“View of Geelong is arguably one of the finest Australian colonial paintings of its type and probably the greatest historical work on Geelong in existence,” Cr McMullin said.

“The current owner has given Geelong first right of refusal to purchase the painting in recognition of its significance to our community but if we don’t secure it now it could be lost to us for good,” Cr McMullin said.

Cr McMullin said there was public outcry at the prospect of the painting leaving Australia when it was last on the market in 1996. At that time View of Geelong sold for $1.98 million.

He said that an estimated 10,000 people visited the Geelong Gallery in a six week period when View of Geelong was on loan to the gallery in 1996.

“If we achieved the same number of visitors to view the painting in one year the estimated economic impact to Geelong would be $700,000 per annum,” Cr McMullin said.

View of Geelong depicts the view north from what is now Highton and shows a sparsely populated valley with the fledgling township of Geelong visible at the edge of Corio Bay.

“Apart from being a masterly work of art, View of Geelong provides an important historical record of colonial-era Geelong before the advent of photography,” Cr McMullin said.

Council’s contribution towards the purchase of the painting is consistent with the objective of Council’s culture strategy, Creativity +, which aims to establish the City as a regional cultural centre of innovation and excellence.

Born in Vienna, Eugene von Guerard studied art at the Dusseldorf Academy before sailing to Geelong in 1852 to try his luck on the Victorian goldfields.

Between 1852 and 1854 he made many sketches of Geelong and the mining districts of Ballarat some of which he later developed into paintings.

In 1870 von Guerard was appointed the first Master of Painting at the National School of Art and curator of the National Gallery of Victoria. Frederick McCubbin, Tom Roberts and Rupert Bunny were among his early students.

“View of Geelong is most likely the only significant colonial masterpiece still in the hands of a private collector – we owe it to our selves to do everything in our power to bring this painting to its spiritual home,” Cr McMullin concluded.