Kosciusko and the Murray Flats at Towong is a panoramic image of the Great Dividing Range, Murray River and surrounding region. Painted during the Great Depression, the work was intended by Eric Thake for the owner of one of the local properties, although this did not eventuate. Thake wrote: ‘Mr Drummond was the man that I painted this picture for, or at least with a view to his buying it. He was very interested, but not financially. During the Depression the price of a steer was probably nowhere near the modest price I asked for this picture.’1
The graphic line and simplified forms of this painting derive in part from Thake’s training in commercial art, design and printmaking. His studies with the Melbourne teacher George Bell from 1925 to 1928 would have informed his modernist approach to form, space and colour. This painting developed from a number of sketches – a process that involved ‘a lot of sifting out and refining and rearrangement, until I come right down to as simplified form as possible’.2
Thake depicts the varied topography of the region. The Murray River is shown curling through the foreground, flanked by clumps of trees and pastures – some soft and green, others eroded with only dead trees remaining. The undulating hills are dotted with details and landmarks including grazing cattle, fence posts and the Bringenbrong Bridge and Station. Further into the distance Thake has depicted the mountains and snow-capped peaks of the Great Dividing Range and Australia’s highest mountain, Kosciuszko. At the bottom of the work a motorcar is shown driving along a dirt road, an indication of modernity within the land.
1 Eric Thake, inscription on the backing board of Kosciusko and the Murray Flats at Towong.
2 Eric Thake, interview by Hazel de Berg, 19 October 1961, Canberra: National Gallery of Australia, transcript, p. 102.