'A break away!'

This is an oil painting on canvas (137.3 cm x 167.8 cm) created by Tom Roberts. It depicts an outback scene in the late 19th century, set in the Riverina district of New South Wales during a drought. A mob of sheep is being moved by drovers through a parched landscape in search of water and green pastures. Smelling water, the thirsty sheep stampede downhill towards a dam, as one drover tries desperately to turn them around and save them from being crushed and drowned. A second drover (on the left-hand side, almost hidden by the dust) and two dogs – one having just been knocked over by some sheep – are unable to help. The next few seconds are vital – everything depends on the lone stockman's gallop into the mob. A column of dust, a 'willy-willy' dancing high on the hill, the dry colours of the earth and a dead steer slumped against a fence all confirm that drought is slowly tightening its grip on the land.


Credits: From the collection of the Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
Elder Bequest Fund 1899
Creator: Tom Roberts, artist, 1891
Identifiers: TLF resource R3378
Source: Art Gallery of South Australia, http://www.artgallery.sa.gov.au/