Eric Thake had a unique ability to find the extraordinary in the everyday, closely observing his surroundings and injecting his subjects with humour and wit. Amongst his best-known works are a series of linocut Christmas cards that were sent to friends and family over the course of forty years.
Thake left a significant impact on Melbourne’s art scene from the late 1920s to the 1970s, primarily as a war artist for the Royal Australian Air Force during World War II. Although he was a shy exhibitor of his works, pursuing his art as a hobby rather than a profession, he participated in various group exhibitions starting from 1929. In 1930 he participated in Australia’s first linocut exhibition alongside Dorrit Black, Ethel Spowers and Eveline Syme. He held just two solo exhibitions in 1947 and 1966 before retiring in 1970. In that same year, the National Gallery of Victoria organised his first comprehensive retrospective, introducing his art to a broader audience.
In 1941, due to the scarcity of materials brought about by wartime shortages, Eric Thake was prompted to print his own Christmas cards. His intention was to bring joy and cheer, infusing his cards with delightful humour. The overwhelming positive responses to his initial effort spurred Thake to continue the tradition in the years following. By 1948, the artist’s annual Christmas cards had developed a devoted following, each eagerly anticipated by those fortunate enough to be on his Christmas card list.
Seen in many of his linocuts, Thake demonstrates his interest in the forms of windows. He skillfully depicted shopfronts and scenes through windows and doorways, playing with reflection and those everday details often overlooked. Thake’s 1964 Christmas card ‘Sunshine and Rain, Lygon St’ compares the displayed merchandise in a shop window with the outside reality. It features an elegantly angled mannequin balanced with the subtle curvature in the stance of the man. To the right, we see the departure of a woman holding her shopping basket. Through minimal forms, Thake demonstrates his innate ability for visual storytelling.
Undertaking several trips to Australian outback towns, Thake skillfully distilled rural imagery in many of his works. ‘She’s Warm Alright’ 1966, provides you with a glimpse of his travels, settling you in at the bar alongside him. From a darkened interior, two patrons are leaning on a bar table enjoying a cold beverage. Behind them the partial window-front, ‘BAR’, which became a recurring theme in Thake’s rural settings.
‘An Opera House in every home’ 1972 is one of his most notable cards. Depicting dishes drying on a rack, this work was made during the controversial building of the Sydney Opera House. Whilst subtly including a blowfly, this artworks captures Thake’s whimsical and ironic approach, offering humourous commentary on the ambitious endeavour of building an opera house of such grandiose design.
Eric Thake continued creating and sending linocut Christmas cards to friends and family until his failing eyesight forced him to stop in 1975. His artistic journey showcased his remarkable way to observe the world around him and uncover the extraordinary within the ordinary. We are delighted to present eight Christmas card linocut prints (lots 33 – 40), ranging from 1952 – 1972 within the July Prints and Multiples auction.
This collection includes: Nuns on the Geelong Road, Desert Island, Figure in a Rocky Landscape, She’s Late Today!, Sunshine and Rain, Lygon St., She’s Warm Alright, Hippobottomi and An Opera House in Every Home.
Hannah Ryan / Prints and Multiples Specialist
Banner Image (detail): ERIC THAKE (1904-1982) An Opera House in Every Home 1972, linocut, 14 x 20.5cm (reveal) | $1,000-2,000