William Delafield Cook
William DELAFIELD COOK
acrylic on canvas
121.5 x 209 cm
Gift of Eva Besen AO and Marc Besen AO
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2008, TarraWarra Museum of Art collection
Contact TarraWarra Museum of ArtCopyright
Following in the footsteps of his grandfather and namesake who had been a painter associated with the Heidelberg School, William Delafield Cook trained at Caulfield Institute of Technology, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and the University of Melbourne in the early 1950s.
From 1967, following his semi-abstract phase, he turned to realism, meticulously rendering objects and interiors in sumptuous charcoal drawings and fine acrylic paintings. However, from the late 1970s it was the Australian landscape that became his central preoccupation, and over many years his continuing dialogue with the exterior, physical realm played a crucial role in forming and reshaping his interior landscape: ‘For me they are not just ‘landscape’, they are part of my life. If I’m painting Australia … I’m painting, among other things, my thoughts, my childhood, my sense of place, where I belong’.
One of the recurring responses to Delafield Cook’s landscapes is that, despite their visual immediacy and apparent fidelity, they appear frozen in time, suffused with a sense of tranquillity that is difficult to infiltrate. The deliberate and considered framing and isolation of his subject and intensive amassing of detail, arrest our gaze, enticing us to focus on objects until they become imbued with a heightened significance, as seen in Promontory (1981). Set against a clear and open blue sky, the jutting headland provides a strong structural presence. The artist’s predilection for topographic features with a defined, formal aspect is clearly revealed in the following passage: ‘On the one hand you are going with a kind of romantic alertness, on the other as a formalist artist. You are wanting to structure it and find something that has a classical element’.
Through completely focused attention and the precise, painstaking application of acrylic in which the detailed strata of the cliff face, the spindly limbs of the trees and the fine grasses and foliage are all carefully and minutely described by his brush, the artist transfixes the scene, rendering it motionless. However, the quality of stillness that pervades the work is just as much a product of what he leaves out. Here, as in all of his landscape paintings, clouds – those ubiquitous expressions of the mutable and ephemeral – are banished from the sky and the surface of the sea produces nary a ripple. In this way, the artist’s photo realist rendering of this remote vista is imbued with a timeless aura.
- William Delafield Cook, quoted in Deborah Hart, William Delafield Cook, Sydney: Craftsman House, 1998, p. 167.
- William Delafield Cook, quoted in Hart, 1998, p. 168.