Buvelot, the migrant artist: interpreting new worlds in Brazil and Australia.
As a painter Buvelot celebrated nature, illuminating his observations with truth, light and colour. His paintings of the Brazilian and Australian landscapes reflect these similar characteristics. While schooled in the European tradition at a young age, and possibly influenced by the painters of the Academie Suisse and the Barbizon School, Buvelot appears to exhibit a singular style in both New World countries which did not receive equivalent fame in Switzerland. (1)
That Buvelot was an individualist can be seen by his wanderings, his relationships and his creative output.
Louis Buvelot arrived in Melbourne on 18 February 1865 accompanied by Caroline Julie Beguin, his colleague from l'Ecole Industrielle (the School of Design) in the small mountain town of La Chaux-de-Fonds, Neuchatel, Switzerland. Buvelot, a handsome man of fifty-one years, was an experienced migrant. The migratory status of his partner--listed in the register of the Southern Ocean as Madame Buvelot and so she remained--is undecided. The two had met in La Chaux-de-Fonds in 1855 when Buvelot accepted the position of drawing master at l'Ecole Industrielle where Beguin taught French. Buvelot had moved to this town in the Juras, frustrated by his inability to establish himself as an artist and photographer in Morges, Vevey and Lausanne in his native Switzerland. (2)
Buvelot had already had an exceptional career. As a young man he had studied art in Lausanne and frequented the ateliers of Paris before sailing to Salvador in Brazil in 1835, ostensibly to work with his uncle Francois, a merchant and coffee grower. There, in the European atmosphere of the Portuguese outpost, he met other emigres from France, Switzerland and England, and travellers from the New World, particularly the United States. (3) He painted several noteworthy oil paintings of Salvador--three views of Bahia around the Bay, which today still look remarkably accurate--and a portrait of Minerva Candida d'Albuquerque which enhanced his reputation amongst upper-class European families in Bahia. (4)
By 1840 he was settled in Rio de Janeiro amongst an expatriate group of Swiss and French emigres where he was comfortable speaking his native tongue. (5) The French quarter was centred on Rua d'Ouvidor, close to the Largo do Paco (Imperial Square), the Pharoux Quay and Hotel Pharoux where 'the restaurant ... is furnished in the French style, the walls being hung with enormous mirrors and countless cafe tables are arranged about the spacious apartment'. (6)
George French Angas, who spent weeks in Rio de Janeiro in 1845, enjoyed the liveliness of the area and sketched the scene, as did Buvelot. Like most emigres, Buvelot lived in the Hotel Pharoux, before moving over time into dwellings on Rua Rosario, Rua do Cano, Rua Santa Teresa and Rua dos Ourives, all not far from the commercial centre. (7)
The French were particularly prominent, having been originally invited by the monarch Dom Pedro VI in 1816 to establish an artistic mission which ultimately resulted in the Academi Imperial de Belas Artes. In 1840, this institution, now called the Escola Nacional des Belas Artes, launched its third exhibition. Buvelot entered two oil landscapes of Brazil, Praia de Santa Luzia e Praia da Gamboa, which were highly commended. (8)
Ten years later, in 1850, married to Marie-Felicite l'Alouette and with a daughter Louise-Sophie, Buvelot was in demand as a painter and daguerrotypiste, sought out by the Emperor Dom Pedro II and the Empress Terese as well as other members of the Rio court. The Empress particularly liked his Carioca landscapes which faithfully reproduced Brazilian nature. She commissioned Tijuca Forest in 1846 and sent other paintings as gifts to her family in Europe. The Emperor, delighted with the building of his Summer Palace at Petropolis in the mountains north east of Rio de Janeiro, commissioned Buvelot and his partner Prat to document its progress through daguerrotypes. (9)
The Emperor and Empress also commissioned daguerrotype portraits of themselves and their daughter Isabel which are now in the Collection of Dom Pedro de Orleans Braganca. (10) These daguerrotypes were perfect exhibits of their craft. The daguerrotype of Empress Teresa Cristina, attributed to Buvelot, that I was shown in the Insituto Moreira Salles in Rio de Janeiro, was exquisitely presented in an engraved leather case bound tightly by two brass clips. The daguerrotype is of high quality, showing the Empress seated, dressed in black, with her face turned to the left. Its artistry is excellent. (11)
Between 1840-1850, Buvelot had won numerous awards and commendations, been accorded the Cavaleiro da Imperial Ordem da Rose (the Order of the Rose), a personal award for services to the Emperor, and had dispensation to display the Armas imperias (Imperial Coat of Arms) above the door of his business premises in Rua do Latoerios. (12)
He was lauded as a landscape painter, and for this reason stood out amongst the many other excellent artists--also mostly foreign--who were usually portraitists. This was suitably demonstrated on my private visit to the stacks of the Museu Nacional de Belas Artes in 2003. (13) Amongst the excellent portraits by Ferdinand Krumhloz, Francoise Rene Moreaux, Leon Moreaux and Louis Auguste Moreau, Buvelot's painting of Vista da Gamboa, 1852, with its minute detail of the foreshore, trees, mountains and water and the use of bright, light colours in the sky made an immediate impact. Another Buvelot, his oil painting, Vista do Saco Da Gamboa, c.1840, in the Colecao Geyer in Rio de Janeiro, is fused with light. The topography is unmistakeably Brazilian, the social geography a mixture of indigenous and European features. (14)
Buvelot's landscapes in the series of lithographs produced between 1842 and 1845, Rio de Janeiro Pitoresco, which were observations of nature and humanity (his friend Louis Auguste Moreau sketched the figures) won wide acclaim. The original lithographs are precisely executed and richly coloured by hand. (15) Buvelot had established himself in Rio de Janeiro with remarkable success. Why then would he renounce this new life to return to Europe?
Buvelot travelled back to Switzerland in 1851 accompanied by his wife and daughter, ostensibly because of ill-health, variously described as malaria or an unmentionable disease (16) Buvelot had married the Parisian-born l'Alouette after the birth of their child, but this sensitive issue would have no impact until he left his wife and daughter in La Chaux-de-Fonds. There is also the suggestion that he left Rio de Janeiro because of scandalous behaviour. (17) The yellow fever epidemic which ravaged the city's population of 300,000, killing 3,827 people in 1850, may also have encouraged Buvelot to leave Rio de Janeiro. (18) Whatever the reason, Buvelot hoped to make the same impact as a landscape painter in Switzerland as he had in Brazil. This did not happen.
It is possible that Buvelot and Beguin chose to migrate to Melbourne at the latter's instigation. When Charles Joseph La Trobe took up his appointment as Superintendent of the Port Phillip District in 1839, he brought with him his wife Sophie de Montmollin, whom he had married in her home town of Neuchatel in 1835, and his two-year-old daughter Agnes. By 1849 Agnes had been sent back to Neuchatel for further schooling and her three Port Phillip born siblings had been provided with a French-speaking governess, Mademoiselle Beguin. (19) While the documentary evidence of her Christian name is confusing, the possibility of Mademoiselle Beguin and Madame Buvelot being the same person is tantalising. (20) Mademoiselle Beguin also came from Neuchatel, and in 1853, after La Trobe's resignation as Lieutenant-Governor returned there with Sophie La Trobe and her children. (21)
They left behind a sizeable community of Neuchatelois, who had migrated to Port Phillip in the wake of La Trobe's appointment. La Trobe, who as a young man had lived in Neuchatel (possibly as the tutor to the young Comte Albert-Alexandre de Pourtales, a cousin of Sophie), had encouraged the migration of young vignerons from the beginning of his tenure. (22) Where possible, he directly interceded with the Secretary of State in London to allow 'foreigners' assisted passages and citizenship. (23) The first vignerons of 1839, Alexandre and Jean Belperroud from Cornax, Neuchatel, were followed by a host of others in the 1840s and 1850s, including Numa Beguin and Frederic Beguin from Rochefort, Neuchatel, who were in the colony by 1854. (24)
Sophie La Trobe is credited with motivating another stream of immigrants from Neuchatel, and the neighbouring cantons of Vaud, Friburg and Bern, family members like Aldophe de Meuron and Guillaume de Pury, and Swiss aristocrats like Paul de Castella. (25) If Mademoiselle Beguin was Madame Buvelot, she had a ready entree into Victorian society through her previous association with these residents. If not, then Buvelot, who knew the de Meuron family in Bahia and Neuchatel, as well as Hubert de Castella, did. (26)
By 1865 there was a distinct Swiss immigrant community in Melbourne, the Yarra Valley ('Little Neuchatel') and the environs of Geelong to provide support for the couple and enable Buvelot to continue speaking French, as he had not bothered to learn Portuguese or English. Entering this community as Monsieur and Madame Buvelot made explanations about Buvelot's wife and daughter, Marie Felicite and Louise Sophie, unnecessary. (27)
Beguin was instrumental in enabling Buvelot to paint again, after his brief attempts to establish a photographic studio in Bourke and La Trobe Streets near the commercial centre of Melbourne. She taught French to support them financially until Buvelot became known in his new community. This admittedly did not take long. Within six years of arriving in the colony, Buvelot was in demand for his landscape painting and travelled into rural areas surrounding the city, as he had done in Rio de Janeiro. By 1869 Buvelot's paintings Winter morning near Heidelberg and Summer afternoon, Templestowe had been acquired by the Board of Trustees of the Public Library, as part of the beginnings of an Australian Collection for the National Gallery. A year later the Trustees added Buvelot's Waterpool near Coleraine (sunset) to this Collection. (28)
Two years previously, Buvelot had travelled into the Western District at the behest of John Cumming, a wealthy grazier who owned not only the large Terrinallum Station near Mt. Elephant, formerly owned by the Clyde Company, but Stony Point, Mount Fyans, Six Mile Creek and Mount Violet. (29) Buvelot's commission was to paint 'Terrinallum Homestead', and his painting is now displayed in all its splendour in the Cowen Gallery, at the entrance to the Redmond Barry Reading Room.
It is a large oil on canvas, painted by Buvelot in his studio in Melbourne, from sketches made in 1868 when he visited the station. The painting seems to be a composite view of Cumming's landholdings, but focused on Terrinallum, underscoring the successful immigrant experience of John Cumming, who arrived in Melbourne with his family as an eight year old in 1838. (30) On the horizon one can discern Mount Elephant and the painting aptly describes the landscape of volcanic rock and soil.
When the painting was exhibited at the Melbourne Public Library in 1869 there was criticism of the lush green plains calculated to drive drought-persecuted squatters 'mad with envy, hatred, malice, and every possible kind of uncharitableness' and the prediction that it would be almost a century before Terrinallum Station would look as green. (31) Regardless of such criticism, Buvelot painted the environment as he found it--in Salvador, Rio de Janeiro, Vevey, Lausanne, La Chaux-de Fonds, Melbourne--and advised his students to do the same. (32) The Western District is not often so green as in this painting, but in the spring of 2004 the countryside around Derrinallum was just as lush as the Terrinallum paddocks in 1869, perhaps fulfilling the critic's prediction but underscoring Buvelot's gift of seeing.
Writing on 2 December 1871 to his son John junior at school in Cambridge, England, John Cumming appears to agree with Buvelot's interpretation of Terrinallum Homestead.
I also had M. Buvelot to paint four small pictures of views on Terinallum and these will be sent as a parcel to you by this mail via Southampton. I wish you to get them framed at my expense. I like the paintings very much, both on account of their being works of art and the interest I have in the scenes. These paintings are sketches taken three years ago. The heavy floods of last season knocked down and destroyed a good many of the trees that overhang the creek near the house. One picture is a view of the crossing place in front of the stable where the horses water, another is a view of the house and creek looking towards the house from near the lower garden gate. Another is a view of the lake formed in the rises to the left of the road leading to Mount Fyans by a small dam and which waters far paddocks, and is the place where Mr. Burrow and you shot a great many ducks. The other picture is a view of the stockyards Lake (native name, Corookorookerdice) and the big lake, (native land Lake-u-lang,) looking at them from the hill at the back of the house. (33)
Four months later, Cumming wrote again to his son, declaring:
Buvelot is considered our best landscape artist. I thought the pictures would interest you being of subjects so well known to you, and that, taking them in connexion with the painter, the subjects, and the time and place when you receive them, I enclose a draft for 135 [pounds sterling], being for your usual quarter's allowance and ten pounds added to pay cost of framing picture. (34)
Buvelot's clientele in Melbourne, like that in Rio de Janeiro, shared the view that he 'painted all that he attempted with honest attention to the peculiarities of local conditions'. (35) As a result, there was a steady demand for his landscapes, continued publicity and artistic awards, including a gold medal at the International Exhibition in Melbourne in 1880 for his painting Between Tallarook and Yea. (36)
Buvelot and Beguin bought Ma Retrait in George Street Fitzroy in 1873, a 'pleasant place' with a" garden in front and a path which leads to a larger garden at the back filled with flowers and fruit.' (37) It was here that Buvelot established his studio, leaving Beguin to take care of the household and commercial duties. Julie Beguin was the linguist of the two, conducting the necessary conversations in English, while Buvelot remained content to stay within his circle of French-speaking friends.
He was, however a keen observer of immigrant life and from 1875 when he reestablished his relationship with his oldest friend Eugene Girardet in Lausanne, he wrote astute commentaries on living in Melbourne. Knowing that Giradet would be interested in the vineyards blighted by phyloxera in 1879, many of which had been planted by Swiss vignerons, Buvelot commented with remarkable prescience
As a matter of fact the Britisher cares for wine only as a commercial product, he does not drink it himself. The Australian wines may be choice, but not difficult to drink. The British drink only beer, whiskey, brandy etc. etc. something that intoxicates quickly and deeply. Yet I believe they will gradually be converted to wine drinking, as the new generations are getting accustomed to it. If phyloxera does not ruin the industry, Victoria will become a wine growing state.
He also showed a French-speaking Swiss' disdain for German immigrants
It is nothing new for the Germans to come and settle in Switzerland, besides who can stop them? When they find no more profit in settling there, they will go elsewhere. They emigrate to every country. Melbourne is full of them.
Buvelot is accepted as a significant landscape artist in both Brazil and Australia. Much of his painting celebrates an individual interpretation, a vision of new worlds. Buvelot observed his environments with the eyes of a migrant. Having moved from place to place in Europe, sailed to South America (travelling and living there), returned to Europe (again moving from place to place), ventured to India, and returned to Europe yet again before choosing his final destination in Australia, Buvelot exemplified the migrant search for new opportunities.
His choice of Rio de Janeiro and Melbourne, motivated by the knowledge of established support groups and the possibilities for economic and artistic success, resulted in public acclaim in both regions for his understanding of indigeous landscapes.
Musing upon migration, the circumstances of his life and growing older, in a letter to his closest friend, Eugene Giradet in 1877, Buvelot wrote
One faculty persists only in full strength and that is a feeling for Nature, which joined to a heart always young to love and cherish those whom it has chosen ... makes me find a charm in life.
[I wish to record here my appreciation of the following for their warmth and generosity during my 2003 research trip to Rio de Janeiro: Maria Inez Turazzi, Paulo Geyer, Sergio Burgi, Maria Souza Costa, Neibe Machado da Costa, Fatima Moraes Argon, Maristela Rossetto Cordeiro da Silva, Cris Anderson, Correa de Souza, Nilselia Monteiro Campos Diogo, Eliane Perez, Margarete Cardoso, Anaildo Bernardo Baragal, Mary Komatsu Shinkado, Pedro Tortima, Estefania Bikic Brandt Da Rocha, Paulo Cesar de Lemos and Carlos Roquette.
Satiro Nunes, who shared that serendipitous moment in the Arquivo Nacional in Rio de Janeiro on 18 June 1996 when I discovered Louis Buvelot among the archival material is thanked for his assistance and enthusiasm.]
(1) It is not my intention to offer detailed art criticism in this article but to record observations from my research in Brazil, Australia and Europe.
(2) Argus, 31 May 1888, p.5 :ADB 1851-1890, vol.3, pp.319-20: J. R. Gray, 'Louis Buvelot His Life and Work', MA thesis, Melbourne University 1968. Buvelot had visited Paris briefly in 1852. He had also travelled to Calcutta in 1854 with his friend and fellow painter from Rio de Janeiro, Ferdinand Krumholz and there is an indication that Buvelot traveled to Scotland before moving to La Chaux-de-Fonds: Auler, Guilherme, 'O Paigista E Retratista Buvelot', Jornal do Brasil, 2 Junho de 1957, Rio de Janeiro
(3) Diogenes Reboucas e Godofredo Filho, Salvado da Bahia de Todos os Santos no Seculo XIX, Salvador-Bahia, Odebrecht, 1996, pp.26-27
(4) Two of the paintings were entitled Vista da Bahia, the other Vista das Fortalezas da Entrada da Bahia. Pedro Correa do Largo, O Olhar Distante, Associacao Brasil Salvador-Bahia 500 Anos Artes Visuals, Sao Paulo, pp.200-203.
(5) Jornal do Commercio, Quarta Feria 16 de Dezember de 1840, Rio de Janeiro, no.332: Os Franceses Residentes No Rio De Janeiro, 1808-1820, Ministerio da Justica e Negocios Interiores. Arquivo Nacional, Rio de Janeiro, 1960, pp.5-6 : There were Swiss settlements in rural Rio de Janeiro to 1850 including Novo Friburgo in the mountains near Petropolis. Anne Colman, 'New Worlds : Attitudes to immigrants and immigration in Port Phillip, New York and Rio de Janeiro, 1835-1850,' PhD thesis, University of Melbourne, 1999, pp.321-322
(6) John Tregenza, George French Angas, Artist, Traveller and Naturalist 1822-1886, Art Gallery Board of South Australia, Adelaide, 1982, p.68.
(7) Jornal do Commercio, Rio de Janeiro, 19-20 Agosto, 1842.
(8) They were Praia de Santa Luzia e Praia da Gamboa. Jornal do Commercio, 16-12-1840.
(9) Maco 113-Doc.5633. Teresa Cristina, imperatriz do Brasil, Recibo, em frances, passado por Buvelot e Prat, dos quadros feitos para imperatriz no valor 544$000. Rio de Janeiro, 06/07/1850, Arquivo, Museu Imperial, Petropolis.
(10) Dom Pedro IV e A Fotographia No Brasil. Por Pedro Vasquez de Suguras, 1986, pp. 36-37. Arquivo, Museu Imperial, Petropolis.
(11) Visit to Instituto Moreira Salles, Rio de Janeiro, 1 October 2003.
(12) Maria Inez Turazzi, Poses E Trejeitos, A fotografia e as exposicoes na era do espetaculo (1839/1889), Rio de Janeiro, Ministerio da Cultura, 1995, p.105.
(13) Visit to the Museu Nacional de Belas Artes, Rio de Janeiro (Director Paulo Herkenhoff), 1 October 2003.
(14) Visit to the Colecao Geyer at Casa Geyer, Rio de Janeiro, 2 October 2003.
(15) Louis Buvelot e Auguste Moreau, Rio de Janeiro Pitoresco, Sao Paulo, Livraria Martins, 1942 (First published Rio de Janeiro, Heaton e Rensburg, 1842) . A copy can be found in the Rare Books Collection, RARELTEF 918 B 98 R. Originals of Rio de Janeiro Pitoresco are held in the Colecao Geyer.
(16) Jocelyn Gray. Lyceum Club Talk, 26 August, 2004.
(17) Lois Hunter, Famous Australian Artists, New Holland, Publishers, Sydney, 2003, p.22. The charge? That Buvelot had an affair with a student at a school in Rio de Janeiro and was forced by public knowledge to leave Brazil.
(18) Rev D.P.Kidder and Rev. J.C.Fletcher, Brazil and the Brazilians, Childs and Peterson, Philadelphia, 1857, pp. 599-603.
(19) Hugh McCrae (ed.), Georgiana's Journal, Melbourne, 1841-1865, Sydney, William Brooks, 1966, pp.237-238..
(20) The passenger records of the Royal George, show an assisted immigrant, Mademoiselle Madeline Beguin, and a cabin class Mademoiselle Begoin leaving Plymouth on 18 August, 1849 arriving in Melbourne in November the same year. Also on the Royal George were Paul de Castella and Adolphe de Meuron. Argus Passenger Index, 1846-1851, Genealogy Collection, State Library of Victoria. Assisted Immigrants from the U.K. 1839-1871, Genealogy Collection, State Library of Victoria.
(21) Marguerite Hancock, Colonial Consorts. The Wives of Victoria's Governors 1839-1900, Carlton South, Melbourne University Press, 2001, p.28.
(22) Dianne Reilly and Victoria Hammond, Charles Joseph La Trobe. Landscapes and Sketches, Melbourne, State Library of Victoria, 1999, pp.6,13: John Barnes questions La Trobe's role as tutor to de Pourtales in his article, 'Hunting the Buffalo with Washington Irving', La Trobe Journal, no.71, Autumn 2003, p.48.
(23) Anne Colman, 'New Worlds', pp.106-107.
(24) Susanne Wegmann, The Swiss in Australia, Verlag Ruegger, Grusch, 1989, p.24. John Tetaz, From Boudry to the Barabool Hills, The Swiss Vignerons of Geelong, Australian Scholarly Publishing, Melbourne 1995, pp.5, 169.
(25) Lynette Peel, Rural Industry in the Port Phillip Region 1835-1880, Carlton, M.U.P., 1974, p.73 : Hubert de Castella, John Bull's Vineyard, Australian Sketches, (1886) Melbourne, Overseas Press Service, 1981, pp.12-13..
(26) Hubert de Castella also returned to Melbourne on the ship carrying Buvelot and Beguin in 1865. Felix et Violette Ansermoz-Dubois, Jocelyn Gray avec la collaboration de Maurice Bastian, Louis Buvelot, 1814-1888, Morges, Societe vaudoise des Beaux Arts, 1985, pp. 29,15.
(27) It is suggested that Buvelot's marriage had soured and that he was smitten by his colleague, Julie Beguin, Louis Buvelot 1814-1888, p.26. The intellectual development of Buvelot's daughter, Louise, had been a worry for him, but by 1865 she was married with a son. Louis Buvelot 1814-1888, p.20.
(28) Terence Lane, Nineteenth-Century Australian Art in the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, National Gallery of Victoria, 2003, pp.6-7, p.63.
(29) A map showing Terrinallum Station can be found inside the back cover of P.L. Brown,ed., Clyde Company Papers, vol.VII. Epilogue 1859-73, London, Oxford University Press, 1971.
(30) MS9422 Cumming Papers 1850-1970s Biography.
(31) Melbourne Daily Telegraph, 1 April 1869, p.2.
(32) In Rio de Janeiro Buvelot's influence can be seen in Nicolao Fachinetti's landscapes. In Melbourne, Roberts, Streeton and Mc Cubbin acknowledge their debt to Buvelot. Hendrick Kolenberg in Barry Pearce, Swiss Artists in Australia 1777-1991, Sydney, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1991, p.42.
(33) MS9422 Cumming Papers 1850-1970s. Correspondence, Terrinallum, 2 December 1871.
(34) MS9422 Cumming Papers 1850 -1970s. Correspondence, Toorak, 23 April 1872 : Three of the four small paintings now reside in the National Library of Australia. The fourth is in the Bendigo Gallery.
(35) Catalogue of Oil Paintings in the Collection of T. W. Stanford, Esq, Melbourne, 1892, p.22.
(36) Argus, 31 May 1888, p.5 'Death of M. Louis Buvelot': Buvelot's role in changing perceptions about eucalypts is discussed in Tim Bonyhady, The Colonial Earth, Carlton South, Melbourne University Press, 2000, chapter 6.
(37) MS 11635 Louis and Julie Buvelot Translations of letters, 27 December 1875 - 16 February 1902, La Trobe Manuscripts Collection, State Library of Victoria. letter to Eugene Girardet, 27 December 1875.
(38) MS11635 Letter to Eugene Girardet, 26 December 1879.
(39) MS11635 Letter to Eugene Giradet, 22 June 1880: German immigrants were the largest immigrant group in Rio de Janeiro to 1850. They were instrumental in building the Emperor's Summer Palace at Petropolis, and had two emigrant societies in the city, the Germania and the Deutschen Hilfsverein, Anne Colman, 'New Worlds', pp.315, 326, 345.
(40) MS11635 Letter to Eugene Girardet, 1 September 1977.
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|Title Annotation:||Louis Buvelot|
|Publication:||The La Trobe Journal|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2005|
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