Biography

Birth date: 08 June 1904
Birth place: Australia: Victoria, Auburn
Death date: 03 November 1982
Final rank: Flying Officer
Service number: 145552 - Second World War, 1939-1945

Eric Thake was born in Melbourne in 1904. Before the Second World War he was apprenticed to a process engraving company and worked as a commercial artist during 1925 and 1926. Thake attended night classes at the National Gallery School, Melbourne, in 1922, and from 1925 to 1928 he studied part-time with George Bell. He was a founding member of the Melbourne Contemporary Group in 1923 and the Contemporary Art Society in 1939.

Thake enlisted in the RAAF in 1943 and worked as a draughtsman until his appointment to the RAAF Historical Section as a war artist in 1944. During the next two years he traveled to central and northern Australia, Timor and Dutch New Guinea.

Thake concentrated on the debris of conflicts, particularly crashed aircraft and machinery. His dream-like and mysterious viewpoint, focuses on the design of equipment in ways which were not usually considered by other artists. Kamiri searchlight and Parachute Store, No 31 Squadron, Morotari are two examples of his almost surreal images.

On the completion of his appointment, Thake's paintings and drawings were distributed amongst the Memorial, state art galleries and the RAAF. After the war Thake worked on a variety of commissions, including postage stamps and museum murals, and as a medical illustrator and designer.

Rolls and Awards

Collection Items

Art

Salvage dump, Port Moresby

The painting shows aircraft components and wreckage at an American salvage dump, Port Moresby, New Guinea. The painting was made from sketches drawn in December 1944 at the dump a mile or two beyond 'Jackson's' airfield near Port Moresby. The artist described the setting as a wonderful place for...

ART26788

Wrecked Lodestar

The wings and fuselage of a wrecked Lockheed Lodestar transport aircraft, formerly owned by Dutch and then later owned by the Americans and the RAAF. When the plane was discovered there were nests from zebra finches hidden in the wings.

ART26790

Koepang Bay

View of Koepang Bay from a Consolidated Catalina flying boat from Royal Australian Air Force, No 43 Squadron; on the day after Japanese in Timor had surrendered. Vessels conveying Australian occupation force are visible in the Bay. The Catalina was piloted by Squadron Leader Seymour, Commanding...

ART26791

Lieutenant General Kunitaro Yamada

Lieutenant General Kunitaro Yamada was charged with murdering two missionaries, using natives as a shield and later charged with the killing of ten Australians. He was cleared of all charges.

ART26792

The face of Japan No. 1 (Japanese POW)

Depicts an unidentified Japanese prisoner of war working on reconstruction of Penfoei Airfield near Kupang, Timor. This drawing series by Thake depicts Japanese military and naval POWs who were employed reconditioning the roads and airstrip at Koepang. The artist drew these portraits as he felt a...

ART26793

The face of Japan No. 2 (Japanese POW)

Unidentified Japanese prisoner of war working on reconstruction of Penfoei Airfield. This drawing series depict Japanese military and naval P.O.W.s who were employed reconditioning the roads and airstrip at Koepang.The artist drew these portraits as he felt a record was needed of the men against...

ART26794

The face of Japan No. 3 (Japanese POW)

Unidentified Japanese prisoner of war working on reconstruction of Penfoei Airfield. This drawing series depict Japanese military and naval P.O.W.s who were employed reconditioning the roads and airstrip at Koepang.The artist drew these portraits as he felt a record was needed of the men against...

ART26795

The face of Japan No. 4 (Japanese POW)

Unidentified Japanese prisoner of war working on reconstruction of Penfoei Airfield. This is part of a series of portraits depicting Japanese military and naval POWs who were employed reconditioning the roads and airstrip at Koepang. The artist drew them as he felt a record was needed of the men...

ART26796

The face of Japan No. 5 (Japanese POW)

Unidentified Japanese prisoner of war working on reconstruction of Penfoei Airfield. This drawing series depict Japanese military and naval P.O.W.s who were employed reconditioning the roads and airstrip at Koepang.The artist drew these portraits as he felt a record was needed of the men against...

ART26797

The face of Japan No. 6 (Japanese POW)

Unidentified Japanese prisoner of war working on reconstruction of Penfoei Airfield. This drawing series depict Japanese military and naval P.O.W.s who were employed reconditioning the roads and airstrip at Koepang.The artist drew these portraits as he felt a record was needed of the men against...

ART26798

The face of Japan No. 7 (Japanese POW)

Unidentified Japanese prisoner of war working on reconstruction of Penfoei Airfield. This drawing series depict Japanese military and naval P.O.W.s who were employed reconditioning the roads and airstrip at Koepang.The artist drew these portraits as he felt a record was needed of the men against...

ART26799

The face of Japan No. 8 (Japanese POW)

Unidentified Japanese prisoner of war working on reconstruction of Penfoei Airfield. This drawing series depict Japanese military and naval P.O.W.s who were employed reconditioning the roads and airstrip at Koepang.The artist drew these portraits as he felt a record was needed of the men against...

ART26800

The face of Japan No. 9 (Japanese POW)

Unidentified Japanese prisoner of war working on reconstruction of Penfoei Airfield. This drawing series depict Japanese military and naval P.O.W.s who were employed reconditioning the roads and airstrip at Koepang.The artist drew these portraits as he felt a record was needed of the men against...

ART26801

The face of Japan No. 10 (Japanese POW)

Unidentified Japanese prisoner of war working on reconstruction of Penfoei Airfield. This drawing series depict Japanese military and naval P.O.W.s who were employed reconditioning the roads and airstrip at Koepang.The artist drew these portraits as he felt a record was needed of the men against...

ART26802

The face of Japan No. 11 (Japanese POW)

Unidentified Japanese prisoner of war working on reconstruction of Penfoei Airfield. This drawing series depict Japanese military and naval P.O.W.s who were employed reconditioning the roads and airstrip at Koepang.The artist drew these portraits as he felt a record was needed of the men against...

ART26803

Tent interior, airmen's lines, Tactical Air Force, RAAF, Noemfoor Island

General view of tent interior in Airmen's lines, occupied by Sergeants Harold Baruch and Len Ambler, RAAF.

ART26967

Tropic home, Noemfoor Island (Flying Officer Ferg Coe and Flying Officer Jack Jefferies)

General view of living quarters occupied by Flying Officer Ferg Coe and Flying Officer Jack Jefferies, RAAF.

ART26968

Military gaol, Alice Springs

Military gaol in Alice Springs, with only the faint outline of a prisoner on the right, behind the wire. Thake's work concentrates on the Mulga tree posts, barbed wire and the red sand of the desert.

ART26969

Liberator's face

Thake's view of a Consolidated B24 Liberator aircraft in Darwin, seeing the machine as some sort of crouching giant insect. Eric Thake was one of three artists appointed by the RAAF Historical Section in 1944 and 1945 to document the latter part of the war as it affected the RAAF.

ART26970

Airstrip at night

57 Operational Base Unit; view of airfield at night with flares illuminating runway.

ART26971

Japanese wreckage, Penfoei airstrip, Timor

Thake shows Japanese prisoners of war clearing up the wreckage of their own planes at the air strip in Penfoei, Timor. This work is typical of Eric Thake, whose paintings and drawings are finely crafted vignettes of the aftermath of war, bombed buildings, crashed planes and deserted camps. His...

ART26972

Jeep in the rain

Depicts the profile view of an unoccupied jeep surrounded by palm trees on Broe Bay, Noemfoor Island.

ART93362

Mobile workshop

No 26 Repair and Salvage Unit; general view of mobile workshop operated by 26 RSU, RAAF.

ART90134

Kamiri searchlight

Eric Thake wrote to Captain John Treloar on 9 November 1947: 'The searchlight, I think belonged to the 16th American Anti-Aircraft Battery as they were camped on the other side and at the opposite end of the strip. The remains of a Japanese fox-hole can be seen on the reflected beach at "3...

ART26787

Parachute store, No 31 Squadron, Morotai

Royal Australian Air Force, No 31 Squadron, parachute store, Morotai. From a sketch done one rainy night at 31 Squadron Camp, Morotai.

ART26789

Transport Section, 80 Wing, Morotai

General view of workshop, made from bamboo and woven matting, Marsden matting on floor.

ART26966

Self portrait in a broken shaving mirror

The broken shaving mirror reflects the partial self portrait of the artist in reflection. The shards of glass are held together with metal corners of the mirror frame which is nailed to the edge of a tree. The tree divides the composition of the painting in two. The blue sky opens out the...

ART96765

Timeline

Date of birth 1904-06-08
Date and unit at enlistment (ORs) 1943-11-24
Date of discharge 1946-03-28
Date of death 1982-11-03