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

TLF ID R3257

This is a watercolour measuring 16 cm x 24.5 cm showing the Victorian squatting run Challicum, from a south-westerly viewpoint. A team of four bullocks, pulling a single-axle wagon loaded with fuel and rough bush timber, is centred in front of a large forest. Two unidentified mountains or hills are on the horizon. The artist, Duncan Cooper, included this painting as the eleventh watercolour in his field sketchbook and inscribed the title 'Panorama of Challicum, No. III' on its mount. The watercolour is the third of nine panoramas which together form a cyclorama of the Challicum area.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This asset depicts a squatting run (illegally occupied Crown land) called Challicum near Fiery Creek, 130 kilometres north-west of Geelong, and 12.8 km south-west of Mount Cole in Victoria - as virtually no comprehensive pictorial records were made by squatters, this watercolour offers a unique historical illustration of the appearance of a squatting run in the 1850s.
  • It illustrates (in the foreground) the south-western pastures of Challicum, a squatting run occupied by brothers George and Harry Thomson and their partner, Duncan Cooper.
  • 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, in the foreground, the open plains surrounding Challicum - many early squatters had an aversion to open plains like this, preferring hillier country in the belief that it provided better shelter for sheep.
  • It shows a squatting run 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 displays a bullock wagon able travel 8-20 kilometres a day depending on conditions - bullocks were cheaper and more reliable than horses, as they were tougher and could pull heavier loads; the cost of setting up a bullock team was about £200 pounds (equivalent to $400 in 2005 but worth much more), well within the reach of ordinary individuals who saved their wages, unlike a horse-drawn wagon which could sell for £700.
  • It portrays a wagon loaded with timber, which was used for fuel and in building as rough rafters and to hold down bark roofing - the actions of the squatters had dire effects on the forests; in July 1844, Foster Fyans, Commissioner of Crown Lands in the area, reported ' ... in a short time little of the valuable timber will be left. In most parts of the district it is scarce and in many parts where there were fine forests there are few good trees left'; by 1853 parts of Challicum were almost denuded of timber.
  • It features the eleventh 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 third in a series of nine watercolours that, when viewed as a series, 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 and with this watercolour had turned to face south-west to encompass 226-265 degrees.
  • 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; 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

Learning area
  • History
  • Studies of society and environment

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:
Access profile
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Learning Resource Type
  • Image
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and National Library of Australia, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements