Also known as
Hubert de Castella,
Herbert de Castella
Painter, landowner and viticulturalist born in Switzerland. Resident of Yering and Ivanhoe, Vic. for many years. De Castella is credited as being both a talented painter and a pioneer of Victorian viticulture.
painter, landowner and viticulturalist, was born in Neuchâtel, Switzerland on 27 March 1825, eldest son of Dr Jean François Paul de Castella, landowner, and his second wife Eleonore, née de Riaz. Always known as Hubert, de Castella received a Jesuit education at Fribourg then went to Germany; in 1843 he began architectural studies in France. During the next decade he was naturalised and served with the French Army. Deciding to join his brother Paul in Victoria, he reached Melbourne aboard the Marlborough on 23 March 1854. His decision was influenced by reports from earlier Swiss emigrants, including Sophie, wife of the colony’s Lieutenant-Governor Charles Joseph La Trobe .
After acquiring a property adjacent to his brother at Yering, Hubert de Castella ran cattle and developed his many cultural interests. He was a frequent visitor to the Café Estaminet Français in Little Bourke Street, Melbourne, run by Anton Fauchery . In 1856 de Castella returned to Switzerland for family reasons. Later he studied art at Nazon’s studio in Paris with his Victorian friend Joseph Panton , finally returning to Melbourne after an absence of six years on 9 September 1865. Soon afterwards, he married Alice Frances, daughter of the New South Wales Legislative Councillor Robert Pitt Jenkins and his wife Louisa . The couple had five sons and five daughters. Stanley Leighton visited Yering in June 1868 and wrote in his illustrated memoir 'Australia’ (vol. 1, NLA, p.176) that Mrs de Castella was 'a striking woman, with features of almost Grecian regularity, softened by a sweet expression; she was an heiress and Sydney was her home. Both she and her husband were Romanists. Their little house consisted of a drawing-room, a dining-room, and a small hall, all hung with pictures in oils, nicely painted by Mr. De Castella himself.’
De Castella is chiefly remembered as a pioneer of Victorian viticulture. He developed vineyards at Yering and Ivanhoe and wrote [and illustrated] several books on the subject, including Notes d’un Vigneron Australien (1882) and John Bull’s Vineyard: Australian Sketches (1886; reprint Melbourne, 1981). Another, Les Squatters Australiens (Paris 1861), presents a spirited defence of his adopted country. Contemporaries considered him a talented painter and he was an active supporter of the Melbourne art establishment. Engravings after some of his original drawings appeared in the first volume of Le Tour du Monde (1861) and in 1864 he showed View on the Yarra Plains (Yering) and three related sketches at Melbourne’s annual exhibition of Fine Arts. These were described in the Argus of 2 March 1864 as 'amongst the best of the amateur productions in the exhibition’. De Castella contributed 'one beautiful little [oil] sketch’, View on the Upper Yarra , to the 1866 Melbourne Intercolonial Exhibition and two of his paintings were lent by their owners to the 1869 Melbourne Public Library Exhibition. He exhibited with the Victorian Academy of Arts from its foundation in 1870 and served on its council. Later, de Castella spent some years in Switzerland, leasing his Ivanhoe property, Charterisville, to artists Walter Withers , E. Phillips Fox and Tudor St George Tucker . The memory of the Australian sunshine brought him back to Victoria in 1906 and he died at Ivanhoe on 30 October 1907.