ERIC PRENTICE ANCHOR THAKE (1904-1982)

 

Eric Thake was one of Australia's most gifted graphic artists. Thake notably became Australia's first artist to paint surrealist pictures during the Second World War and was the Official War Artist between 1944 and 1945.

Eric Prentice Anchor Thake was was in Melbourne on 8 June 1904. Growing up, Thake's favourite book was Cole's Funny Picture Book by Edward William Cole. Thake regularly asserted that reading Edward William Cole helped him to develop the habit of "seeing the unfamiliar in the familiar". 

In 1918, Eric Thake left school and was apprenticed to a process engraving firm. At Patterson Shugg Pty Ltd he developed an appreciation for print making and design. In 1922 Eric Thake commenced evening classes at the National Gallery School in Melbourne, tutored by Bernard Hall and W. B McInnes. From 1925-28 Eric attended classes with George Bell. Thake also studied sculpture at the Melbourne Working Men's College and in the 1960s enrolled at the Royal Melbourne Institute.

In 1931 Eric Thake was awarded international recognition when he received an honourable mention at the 1931 Ex Libris Association Exhibition of Bookplates in Los Angeles. This was followed by an exhibition of prints at Dorrit Black's Modern Art Centre in 1933 with fellow artists Eveline Syme and Ethel Spowers. 

Thake's growing interest in surrealism led to the creation of one of Australia's earliest surrealist works, Salvation from the Evils of Earthly Existence, for which he won (along with James Gleeson) the Contemporary Art Society prize in 1940. This recognition was closely followed by another when the National Gallery of Victoria accepted the work. Cries of outrage could be heard from the conservative authorities across the art world despite the fact that Thake's interpretation of surrealism was injected with a strong sense of British reserve. Salvation from the Evils of Earthly Existence shows the influence of British surrealists Paul Nash and Edward Wadsworth.

Eric Thake worked in advertising until 1943 when in the midst of World War 2 he enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force. In the RAAF Thake worked as a medical draughtsman and was also commissioned to create the backdrops for the Aboriginal display cases in the National Museum of Victoria. In earl