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Strange Spectacle

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Title (object)

    • Strange Spectacle
  • Description

    A double-headed seed pod suggesting a full frontal pair of spectacles, eyes and the line of a nose; the artist's Christmas card for 1944.
    Linocut on folded thin cream wove paper

  • Producer name

  • School/style

  • Date

    • 1944
  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 106 millimetres
    • Width: 131 millimetres
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Content

        Signed, dated and titled in pencil
  • Curator's comments

    Text from Stephen Coppel, 'Out of Australia: Prints and Drawings from Sidney Nolan to Rover Thomas', with a contribution by Wally Caruana on Aboriginal prints, BMP, 2011, no.47.
    This and the three linocuts (2005,0231,20, 2005,0231,21, 2005,0231,22 ) come from a series of personal Christmas cards which Thake sent to his friends every year from 1941 until weakening eyesight forced him to stop after 1975. James Mollison, from whom these prints come, joined Thake's Christmas list in the early 1960s when he was an education officer at the National Gallery of Victoria. In 1964 Mollison drew attention to Thake's linocuts, and in particular his Christmas cards, in his seminal article, 'Printmaking in Australia', 'Art and Australia', vol.1 no.4 (February 1964), pp.231-38, writing: 'Thake works with meticulous care and gives loving attention to the quality of the line he uses. He simplifies shapes and arranges patterns, black on white and white against black, in subjects that reflect his dry humour and delight in the absurd' (p.232).
    In this Christmas card a double-headed seed pod suggests the strange visage of eyes looking through a pair of spectacles. Thake produced this card for Christmas 1944 during his first year working as an Australian war artist attached to the Australian air force. In a letter of January 1945 he exclaimed at the artistic possibilities opened up to him by this new experience: 'I'm seeing so much every day that is new and strange. I am seeing in minutes and hours and days more than I ever expected to see in my life time' (cited by Kirsty Grant in On Paper: Australian Prints and Drawings in the National Gallery of Victoria, exh.cat., Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 2003, p.56). Thake's Christmas cards in the 1940s were printed for him by John Gartner at the commercial printers Hawthorn Press Pty Ltd in Melbourne.


  • Location

    British XXc Unmounted Roy

  • Exhibition history

    2011 May-Sept, BM, 'Out of Australia', cat. no.47.

  • Conservation

    See treatments 

    Treatment date

    4 October 2005

    Treatment proposal

    Remove debris and adhesive from verso. Press. Stamp


    Unmounted. Adhesive residue on verso.

    Treatment details

    Surface cleaned using grated Staedtler plastic eraser. Removed adhesive residue using a Culminal (nonionic cellulose ether) poultice and damp cotton wool swabs. Pressed locally.

    About these records 

  • Subjects

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Acquisition notes

    Presented as part of a gift of twelve works on paper by George Baldessin, Robert Klippel, Eric Thake and Christian Waller.

  • Department

    Prints & Drawings

  • Registration number



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Object reference number: PPA88227

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