Nicholas Chevalier was born on 9 May 1828, in St Petersburg, Russia, the son of Swiss-born Louis Chevalier, overseer to the estates of the Prince de Wittgenstein in Russia, and a Russian mother, Tatiana Onofriewna. Nicholas left Russia with his father in 1845 and studied painting and architecture in Lausanne, Switzerland and Munich, Germany. He became an illustrator in watercolours and lithography after moving to London in 1851. Two of his paintings were hung in the Royal Academy in 1852. He then studied painting in Rome before returning to London.
In late 1854 Chevalier sailed from London to Australia on board the ‘Swallow’ to join his father and brother, who was manager of the vineyards at Bontharambo on the Ovens River in Victoria. He arrived in Melbourne on 25 December and in August 1855 he obtained work as a cartoonist on the newly established Melbourne Punch. Later he did illustrative work for the Illustrated Australian News and also worked in chromo-lithography.
On 5 March 1857, Nicholas Chevalier married Caroline Wilkie, at the Congregational Church, Brunswick Street, Melbourne. Caroline was also an artist, the daughter of Frederick Wilkie (artist) and Sarah Drew. She was also related to the Scottish artist, David Wilkie.
In 1864, when the National Gallery of Victoria was founded, an exhibition of works by Victorian artists was held. Considered to be the best picture exhibited, Nicholas Chevalier’s painting The Buffalo Ranges was purchased for £200. by the government for the National Gallery of Victoria. It was the first picture painted in Australia to be included in the Melbourne collection.
In 1865 Chevalier visited New Zealand, travelling widely and doing much work there which was exhibited at Melbourne on his return. In 1869 he joined HMS Galatea as an artist with the Duke of Edinburgh, on the voyage to the East and back to London with stops in Tahiti, Hawaii, Japan, China, Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and India. The pictures painted during the voyage were exhibited at South Kensington.
In January 1874 Chevalier was commissioned by Queen Victoria to travel to St Petersburg and paint a picture of the marriage of the Duke of Edinburgh. Chevalier made London his headquarters and was a constant exhibitor at the Academy from 1871 to 1887. He had one picture in the 1895 Academy but had practically given up painting by then.
Nicholas Chevalier died in London on 15 March 1902.
Gallery: Engravings of Nicholas Chevalier’s artwork appearing in Edwin Carton Booth’s “Australia” published in 1873
Provenance: “Australia” vols. I & 2, 1873; Edwin Carton Booth F.R.C.I. with drawings by (John) Skinner Prout, N. (Nicholas) Chevalier, &c. &c.Author: Edwin Carton Booth
Contributor: John Skinner Prout (1805-1876)
Contributor: Nicholas Chevalier (1828-1902)
Date of Publication: 1873
Publisher: Virtue & Co
Place of Publishing: London
Copyright status: Out of copyright
Courtesy: The British Library