The cook

Accession Number ART02304
Collection type Art
Measurement sheet: 57.3 x 44.2 cm (irreg.); image: 52.5 x 42.2 cm
Object type Work on paper
Physical description charcoal, pencil and wash on paper
Place made France
Date made 1917
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

Item copyright: Copyright expired - public domain

Public Domain Mark This item is in the Public Domain


Depicts the figure of a battalion cook, his pipe in his mouth, leaning in the doorway of a kitchen. Dyson had a "fascination with eccentric A.I.F. cooks" and greatly admired the AIF support units who strove to provide the infantry with basic comforts, such as food. Of AIF cooks, Dyson noted that he suspected that "Australian units select their cooks not on their ability as chefs but for the stories that can be told about them to other units". He also described the cooks as: "He often has, or had, a son or two in the line who probably left Australia criminally young to prove themselves men as the old man left to prove himself one of the boys". This portrait of the cook was also popular with General Blamey, who believed it to be the "nearest example to the perfect picture of the Australian digger".

Will Dyson was the first Australian official war artist to visit the front during the First World War, travelling to France in December 1916, remaining there until May 1917, making records of the Australian involvement in the war. He was formally appointed as an official war artist, attached to the AIF, in May 1917, working in France and London throughout the war. His commission was terminated in March 1920.