of Cooktown, Oscar (1877-)

Field of activity
Artist; Draughtsman; Stockman
NLA Persistent Identifier
https://nla.gov.au/nla.party-1487724

Biographies

'Oscar of Cooktown' is known only by the one book of drawings which was fortuitously preserved in the collection of the National Museum of Australia, Canberra, ACT. The forty pencil and coloured pencil drawings give a partially biographical account of Oscar's life, and a unique perspective into the colonial frontier in western Queensland.

The Oscar Sketchbook in the collection of the National Museum of Australia is a small marbled-paper covered exercise book measuring only 207mm x 168mm. An attached label is inscribed “ Drawn by Oscar, Cooktown boy, aged 18 years”. The forty pencil and coloured pencil drawings within, together with a caption list and letter, are the only known original works by and about Oscar. Apart from these sources, Oscar’s life story appears to have escaped both the historical and oral history records and despite a careful search, the full story of his life, especially the years after he completed the sketchbook, remains a mystery. However if you open Oscar’s little book, which you can do electronically at the National Museum of Australia’s website, and 'read’ the forty lively drawings, in conjunction with the caption list and letter, much can be conjectured. The drawings portray rich and complex scenes, and if not drawn from life, they are almost certainly drawn from Oscar’s memory and are thought to represent an autobiographical account of his life. We can also learn much from the caption list for the drawings and the accompanying letter, both of which were written by Augustus Henry Glissan, Manager of Rocklands Station, near Camooweal in far north-western Queensland in 1899. Glissan records that the sketches were: ..executed by one of my boys named 'Oscar’, this boy I got at Cooktown in 1887 & he has been with me ever since,... he was somewhere about nine or ten years of age then ...

Flourished

  • fl. c.1895 - c.1899

View the full record at Design and Art Australia Online

Related people and organisations

Design and Art Australia Online

  • National Museum of Australia, Canberra, ACT
  • 70% Urban
  • Captivating and Curious: Celebrating the Collection at the National Museum of Australia
  • Gold and Civilisation
  • (see also) [Book of 40 pencil and coloured pencil drawings]

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  1. COOKTOWN.
    Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate (NSW : 1876 - 1954) Thursday 5 August 1880 p 2 Article
    ... COOKTOWN. The Harbour-master has returned from the search after the cutter, Oscar. He states that ... the master of Channel Rock lightship informed him that the Oscar anchored in the vicinity for fourteen ... 38 words
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  2. NORTHERN MAIL NEWS. COOKTOWN AND THE PALMER
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