But to look down on a place which cannot be reached, – into a valley full of trees, through which a stream runs, a green, dark, crowded valley, – and to feel that you are debarred from reaching it by sheer descent of four or five hundred feet of cliff all round, is uncommon … I never saw before so vast a gaping hole on the earth’s surface.
A. Trollope 18731
In the same year that Eugene von Guérard painted Govett’s Leap and Grose Rover Valley, Blue Mountains, New South Wales,the English writer Anthony Trollope published his travelogue Australia and New Zealand, an account intended to describe the Australian colonies to the people of England.
Like the Dandenong Ranges for Melbourne, the Blue Mountains quickly became a tourist destination for Sydney-siders – a sanctuary of cool-climate bushlands, spectacular scenery and native wildlife. In this work von Guérard emphasises the sensation of looking down into a vast valley where human existence feels slight in the company of nature.
Von Guérard visited Govett’s Leap in 1859 on his only trip to Sydney, the Blue Mountains and the Illawarra region. He painted Govett’s Leap and Grose River Valley, Blue Mountains, New South Wales some fourteen years after this visit. Infrared analysis of this picture reveals a considerable amount of underdrawing. This indicates that von Guérard first made an outline drawing of the image on the canvas and then painted over it, working closely to the outline. He would have developed the composition using sketches, drawings and possibly photographs as visual aids.
1 A. Trollope, Australia and New Zealand, volume one, Melbourne: G. Robertson, 1873, p. 305.