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An image of The birds of paradise by Eric Thake

Eric Thake

(Australia 08 Jun 1904 – 03 Nov 1982)

The birds of paradise
Media category
Materials used
pencil, gouache

38.1 x 47.4 cm sheet

Signature & date
Signed and dated l.r. corner, "Eric Thake 1945".
Purchased 1947
Accession number
© Estate of Eric Thake
Not on display
Further information

Eric Thake served as an official War Artist from 1944-46 in Australia and the Pacific, when for the first time he was able to work full time as an artist. He faced few restrictions in his choice of subject in his drawings, watercolours and paintings of everyday life and military operations.

Thake's satirical approach to his subject is revealed in the title – the 'birds of paradise' are aircraft buzzing the disintegrating remains of a wrecked aeroplane beached on a tropical shore. The surrealist sensibility of his imagery is underscored by an emphasis on an apparently weightless metal propeller, suspended in the centre of the composition and counterpointed against an idyllic landscape. This disjunction can be seen as a comment upon the chaos and devastation of warfare, whilst the inherent strangeness of the wreck provides a metaphor of simultaneous human creativity and destructiveness.

© Australian Art Department, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2004

Bibliography (4)

Hendrik Kolenberg, Australian watercolours 1880s to 1990s, Sydney, 1995, 71 (colour illus.), 121. 60

Hendrik Kolenberg, Twentieth century Australian watercolours from the collection, Sydney, 1989. 76

Hal Missingham, Contemporary Australian painting from the National Collection, Sydney, circa 1946, 15. 38

Martin Terry, Arts National, 'The Australian landscape tradition in watercolour', pg. 22-27, Hamilton, Nov 1985-Dec 1985, 25 (colour illus.), 26.

Exhibition history (4)

Contemporary Australian painting from the National collection, Exhibition Venue Unknown, 1946–1950

A retrospective exhibition of Australian painting, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 25 Sep 1953–25 Oct 1953

Australian watercolours 1880s to 1990s:

Wastelands: A poetic legacy, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 10 Aug 2005–09 Oct 2005