Hillside, Ellerston

Born Melbourne, Australia 1936


Continuing a family tradition of following artistic pursuits, William Delafield Cook aspired to paint, studying at the Caulfield Institute of Technology, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and the University of Melbourne (1953–55). His grandfather and namesake had been associated with the Melbourne Heidelberg School at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Although Cook was initially interested in abstraction, from the late 1960s he dedicated himself to realism. In the 1970s he produced his super-realist haystack paintings for which he is perhaps best known. Inspired by the photographer William Henry Fox Talbot, Cook’s landscapes are hyper-real, showing acute attention to detail, shadow and perspective, his meticulous surfaces showing no evidence of the painter’s brushstrokes.

Hillside, Ellerston (1990) depicts an area in the upper Hunter Valley, New South Wales. It is a characteristically quiet and intriguing image, and like many of Cook’s landscapes, there is an indefinable mystery in the shapes and forms, raising questions of the translation within representation.

Cook’s first solo exhibition was in 1967, and he has since exhibited regularly, both in Australia and the United Kingdom, where he has spent much of his time since the 1980s. In 1987 a major retrospective of his work was held at the Art Gallery of New South Wales and Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne.