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An image of Archaeopteryx by Eric Thake

Eric Thake

(Australia 08 Jun 1904 – 03 Nov 1982)

Place of origin
East KewMelbourneVictoriaAustralia
Media category
Materials used
oil on canvas

41.9 x 52.0 cm stretcher; 51.8 x 61.0 x 4.0 cm frame

Signature & date
Signed and dated c.l., white oil "Eric Thake '41".
Purchased 1964
Accession number
© Eric Thake Estate
20th & 21st c Australian art
Further information

A prolific printmaker, known for his ingenious linocuts, Eric Thake considered his rarer oils and watercolours of greater significance. Thake studied at the National Gallery of Victoria Art School and later with George Bell, whose interest in formal design and abstraction through pictorial organisation, as well as the theory of dynamic symmetry, influenced the young artist.

By the late 1930s, Thake’s work revealed an awareness of the metaphysical experiments of Giorgio de Chirico and the English surrealists, Edward Wadsworth and Paul Nash. 'Archaeopteryx' is a superb example of Thake’s meticulous and witty paintings, its directness derived from his experience as a graphic artist and medical illustrator. The inspiration for 'Archaeopteryx' was a book by Willy Ley in which Australia is described as a world’s-end warehouse of nature’s experiments: the lizard-like head and feathered body of the flying machine evokes the prehistoric creature of the title.

Bibliography (14)

Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1964 Acquisitions, Sydney, 1964, 24-25. 27

Australian artists'., Art in Australia [series 4, no. 4], 'Paintings recently exhibited, Sydney, Dec 1941-Feb 1942, 63 (illus.).

Christopher Chapman, Surrealism in Australia, Canberra, 1993, 51 (colour illus.).

Christine Dixon and Dinah Dysart, Counterclaims: presenting Australian art 1938-1941, Sydney, 1986, 54. CAS61

Mary Eagle and Jan Minchin, The George Bell School: Students - Friends - Influences, Melbourne, 1981, 28-29.

Helen Verity Hewitt, Patrick White, painter, manqué: paintings, painters and their influence on his writing, 'Patrick White's choice', pg. 114-119, Carlton, 2002, 115.

Dr Ursula Hoff, Eric Thake: a retrospective exhibition, Melbourne, 1970, not paginated. 15; lent by The Art Gallery of New South Wales

Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Australian Collection: Painting and Sculpture', pg. 102-181, Sydney, 1999, 148 (colour illus.).

Elizabeth Lawson, Birds, Canberra, 1999, 11.

National Gallery of Australia (Editor), Surrealism: Revolution by night, Canberra, 1993, 265 (colour illus.).

Barry Pearce, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Australian', pg. 13-35, Sydney, 1988, 26.

Barry Pearce, Australian Artists, Australian Birds, North Ryde, 1989, 108 (colour illus.). plate no. 89

Patrick White, Patrick White's Choice, Sydney, Dec 1981, illus.. 7

Natalie Wilson, Australian art: in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Out of Melbourne: realisms and mythologies', pg. 163-164, Sydney, 2000, 164, 165 (colour illus.), 302.

Exhibition history (5)

Contemporary Art Society Exhibition 1941:

Patrick White's Choice, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 22 Dec 1981–31 Jan 1982

Australian Academy of Art and the Contemporary Art Society (1986), S.H. Ervin Gallery, Sydney, 15 May 1986–16 Jul 1986

Surrealism: Revolution by Night:

A Bird in the Hand, National Library of Australia, Canberra, 01 Mar 1999–30 Jun 1999