Image 'Panorama of Challicum, No. I', c1850

TLF ID R3255

This is a watercolour measuring 15.8 cm x 24.4 cm showing gently undulating grassland and narrow bands of trees. A group of cows is being herded by a mounted man to a lower area behind a hill, possibly towards a small group of huts that can be glimpsed in the middle ground. The artist, Duncan Cooper, included this painting as the ninth watercolour in his field sketchbook and inscribed the title 'Panorama of Challicum, No. I' on its mount. The watercolour is the first of nine panoramas that together form a cyclorama of the Challicum area in south-western Victoria.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This asset depicts part of a squatting run (illegally occupied Crown land) called Challicum near Fiery Creek, 130 kilometres north-west of Geelong, and 12.8 kilometres south-west of Mt Cole - as virtually no comprehensive pictorial records were made by squatters, this watercolour offers a unique historical illustration of the area around the Challicum homestead and other buildings of a squatting run in the 1850s.
  • It illustrates the homestead area and the southern pastures of Challicum, a squatting run occupied by brothers George and Harry Thomson and their partner, Duncan Cooper - Cooper later acquired the southern part of the run (shown in the background of this watercolour) from the Thomson brothers as a separate licence and, calling it Warrapinjoe, he bred dairy and feed cattle but was more successful with sheep; Warrapinjoe and Challicum wool was very well regarded at the London wool markets.
  • It shows an area of land that the Thomson brothers and Cooper gained possession of by purchasing a flock of sheep from Alexander and Colin Campbell - squatting runs were unable to be sold since they were not freehold land and, according to the custom of the time, occupation of land came as part of the sale of the sheep.
  • It reveals the open plains including and surrounding Challicum - many squatters had an aversion to open plains like this, preferring hillier country in the belief that it provided better shelter for sheep.
  • It shows several squatting runs in an area outside the Nineteen Counties (the Counties were the only areas in the Colony of New South Wales that had been surveyed and where it was legal to buy land); Victoria was part of NSW until 1851; grazing licences to manage squatting were introduced in 1835 for a fee of £10 each (a considerable sum in 1835), but were difficult to enforce; in response to demands by squatters for more secure tenure, the 1847 Orders in Council allowed a 'holder' the right to purchase a homestead area with a pastoral licence for adjoining land in the settled districts (the Nineteen Counties) and provided for pastoral leases with terms up to 8 years in intermediate districts and 14 years in unsettled districts.
  • It illustrates cows grazing at Challicum around 1850 - runs such as Challicum had no fences and cattle grazed freely with stockmen rounding them up when necessary; these cows were probably milkers and so were brought in to be milked every day; without milking cows, the people on a run had no source of fresh milk, cream or butter.
  • It features the ninth watercolour in Duncan Cooper's field album, a visual record of the early squatting years in Victoria - Cooper (c1813-1904) named the album 'The Challicum sketchbook' and described it as 'a collection of drawings made at Challicum, Fiery Creek, Victoria, Australia, from my first settlement there, January 1st, 1842 till 1853'; the album, measuring 26.5 cm x 37 cm and containing 34 paintings, is a prized item in the collection of the National Library of Australia.
  • It shows the first in a series of nine watercolours that provide a cyclorama of Challicum and neighbouring squatting runs as they were around 1850 - a cyclorama is a cylindrical painting designed to provide a viewer, standing in the middle of the cylinder, with a 360-degree view and this cyclorama is unique in Australia's squatting history; Cooper began his cyclorama facing approximately south-south-east with this watercolour, which encompasses 145-185 degrees; the distant hills could align with Mount Vite Vite to the right and Mount Widderin in the centre.
  • It reveals the strengths and weaknesses of Cooper's abilities as an artist - while he was skilled in rendering topographical, landscape, botanical and building detail, he was less skilled in portraying the human figure, horses, cattle and sheep; Cooper generally presents these at a considerable distance; in his will Cooper describes his portfolio of work as being of 'no monetary value, being amateur work'.
Year level

F; 1; 2; 3; 4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12

Other details

  • Author
  • Person: Duncan Cooper
  • Description: Author
  • Contributor
  • Name: National Library of Australia
  • Organization: National Library of Australia
  • Description: Content provider
  • URL:
  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
  • Description: Data manager
  • Person: Duncan Cooper
  • Description: Author
  • Copyright Holder
  • Name: National Library of Australia
  • Organization: National Library of Australia
  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
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Learning Resource Type
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  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and National Library of Australia, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements