ERIC PRENTICE ANCHOR THAKE (1904-1982)
Eric Thake was an Australian artist and printmaker. He left school in 1918 to be apprenticed to Patterson Shrugg Pty Ltd, a leading process engraving firm where Thake was taught the fine art of highly detailed drawing.
In 1922, Thake enrolled in the drawing class at the National Gallery School in Melbourne and subsequently studied painting and drawing at the George Bell Studio in 1925-28. Thake was also a founding member of the Melbourne Contemporary Group in 1932.
Influenced by the precision of Lionel Lindsay's engravings as well as the powerful silhouettes in Blamire Young's woodcuts, Thake also became increasingly fascinated with the developments in graphic art occuring throughout Europe and in 1930 he exhibited his first series of modern linocuts.
An early exponent of Surrealism in Australia, Thake shared the Contemporary Art Society prize in 1941 for his painting ‘Salvation from the Evils of Earthly Existence’ with James Gleeson. He began sending personal Christmas cards printed with a linocut to friends in 1941, eleven of which 69 John St have previously offered for sale.
Thake enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force in 1943, and worked as a draughtsman until his appointment as an Official War Artist in 1944. Working in a surrealist mode since the early 1930s, he was an unlikely appointment, his biographer stating he ‘had previously shown little interest in painting figures, and had even less interest in aircraft.’ Thake wrote of his experience in New Guinea: “I’m seeing so much every day that is new and strange. I am seeing in minutes and hours and days more than I ever expected to see in my lifetime.”
During the next two years, he travelled to central and northern Australia, Timor and Noemfoor Island in Dutch New Guinea. Thake concentrated on the debris of conflicts, in particular machinery and crashed aircraft. He revelled in the abundance of new subjects and the freedom to make art full time, a luxury not otherwise available to him. After being promoted to flying officer, Thake was demobilised on 28 March 1946.
Thake resumed his commercial art career following World War II and undertook numerous commissions, including museum murals and postage stamps, while simultaneously pursuing his own work, including photography. He left the advertising world in 1956 to work as a medical draughtsman at the University of Melbourne until his retirement in 1970.
Solo exhibitions of Thake’s work were held at Georges Gallery, Melbourne in 1947 and the Newcastle City Art Gallery in 1968. He was given a retrospective at the National Gallery of Victoria in 1970 and held more solo exhibitions; in 1976 at the Geelong Art Gallery and 1981 at the Victorian Ministry for the Arts.
Thake passed away in Geelong on 3 November 1982, and is now recognised as one of Australia’s most notable Modernist artists.