Located on Level 2A of State Library Victoria, the Cowen Gallery features magnificent Australian paintings, including works by Eugene von Guerard, George Pownall and Jessie Traill. Each elicits a very personal response.

Viennese born Eugene von Guerard arrived in Australia in 1852, lured by the Victorian gold rush. He was one of the first colonial painters to capture the uniqueness of the Australian landscape. He had a preference for ‘open air’ paintings, capturing the new country he saw around him.1 His paintings: Head of the Mitta Mitta; Eagle’s View of the Mountain; Plenty Ranges from East Melbourne; and Dr Howitt’s Corner, Dandenong Ranges, can all be found in the Cowen Gallery and are emblematic of his style.

Brown mountain ranges with a bare tree in the foreground
Head of the Mitta Mitta, Eagle’s View of the Mountains. Painting by Eugene von Guerard, 1879; H30578
A view of blue hills and trees in the countryside
Plenty Ranges from East Melbourne. Painting by Eugene von Guerard,1862; H1602
A horse and cart surrounded by trees and the view of a township with mountains in the background
Dr Howitt’s Corner, Dandenong Ranges. Painting by Eugene von Guerard, 21 May 1862; H1601

English artist George Pownall arrived in Melbourne around 19142 His Collins Street and Bourke Street, East, also feature in the Cowen Gallery. Particularly interesting is his use of fuzzy brushstrokes and an emphasis on the quality of light.3 Collins Street and Bourke Street, East are examples of how Pownall depicted shades of light as a central feature of his painting.4

Collins Street. Painting by George Pownall, [ca 1912]; H33066
A busy street with trams and horses, lined by buildings under a cloudy sky
Bourke Street, East. Painting by George Pownall, [ca 1912]; H33067

Jessie Traill was a student of Frederick McCubbin, one of the leading figures of the Heidelberg School.5 She painted a mix of natural and industrial landscapes. Her painting Market Street, Melbourne hangs in the Cowen Gallery. A cityscape of Melbourne, it can remind us of Pissaro’s Boulevarde Montmartre on a Winter Morning, but in a new city and a new century.

A street filled with horse carriages and people on an overcast day
Market Street, Melbourne. Painting by Jessie Traill, [1912?]; H30880
A street in Paris lined with trees, people and carriages
Boulevard Montmatre on a Winter Morning. Painting by Camille Pissaro, 1897. From the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; 60.174


  1. Pullin, R, 2011, Eugene von Guerard: Nature revealed, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
  2. George Hyde Pownall: painter of cityscapes by Michael E. Humphries, La Trobe Journal, No. 90 (December 2012), pp. 22-40
  3. Lane, T, 2007, Australian Impressionism, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
  4. As above
  5. The Heidelberg School were a group of painters who took up residence at Heidelberg, among other places, and who later became known as the Australian Impressionists.

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