Collection, Maurice Cork, artworks, prints, photographs and related tear sheets, collated and mostly created by Maurice Cork, illustrator, commercial artist, WWII camoufleur, and art director, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1920s-1990
This collection belonged to Maurice Cork, an illustrator, commercial artist, WWII camoufluer and art director who lived and worked in Sydney from the late 1920s to the 1970s. It relates to the Maurice Cork archive.
Cork studied at the Julian Ashton Art School, then worked as a staff artist with Farmers Department store in Sydney, before joining K G Murray Publishers in 1936 where he produced many works for the popular, albeit slightly risque, Australian men's 'girlie' magazine, Man. Man was published from 1936 when Cork first joined K G Murray, though to 1974. Prominent Sydney photographers Max Dupain and Laurence Le Guay were also contributors to Man magazine.
Later, Cork joined the George Patterson (advertising) Agency as an art director in the late 1940s.
This collection contains many original artworks, as well as an important body of material relating to Cork's life and work as a camoufluer with the Camouflage Unit of the Department of Homeland Security during WWII (artworks, photographs, documents and correspondence).
Significantly too, the collection reveals the slow demise of the commercial artist as commercial and press photographers took over as key producers of pictorial content in the popular press. This demise took place from the 1930s though to the 1950s, and Cork pictorially illustrates this demise by depicting elegantly dressed men with portable cameras at the races and professional cameramen with their big, intrusive, field press cameras on assignment.
Nonetheless, the popularity of illustration never truely disappeared and today illustrators draw inspiration from traditional designs like those found in the Cork collection.
Historically, illustrators like Cork often worked in sweat shop conditions generating artworks at great speed to tight deadlines. The process of drawing requires time and skill to produce an idea, a likeness, a mood, a feeling and an atmosphere - so the sweatshop environment put great creative pressure and strain on the artists. However, Cork appears to have been able to churn works out at speed. Many of the works in his collection still retain instructions and pencilled deadlines on their mounts.
The material which relates to period in which Cork was art director with the Sydney-based George Patterson (advertising) Agency (estab 1930s, Cork joined around 1949), includes works by other artists who contributed illustrations and designs under Cork's art direction, including Frank Beck and Frank Whitmore, leading commercial illustrators of their day.
Maurice Cork's illustrations capture a lively and vivid graphic world of traditional Australian visual communication design. His style is competent, distinctive and accomplished, moving from very fine, at times quite sombre, yet powerful, black and white illustration, to optimistic and colourful, 'schmaltzy' designs.
Anne-Marie Van de Ven, Curator, September 2011
Collected and/or produced by Maurice Cork.
Herrick Maurice (Maurice) Cork
(b. 4 March, 1914 Central Tilba, NSW; d. Sydney 2003)
Commercial artist, illustrator, camoufleur, painter, watercolourist, art director
Biography prepared by Anne-Marie Van de Ven, Curator, 2011
1914: b. Central Tilba, NSW
Son of Herrick Ashton Cork and Winifred Helen Cork (nee Read), both members of early Australian farming families. (Robert, James and William Cork, brothers from St Giles, Norwich, UK arrived Australia 1827. Ref: Ewin, J., Meet the Pioneers, 1991)
1926: Graduated from Tilba Tilba Public School. Received Permit to Enrol in the Seventh Class of a Junior Technical, Commercial, Household Arts, Rural, District, or other in Super-Primary School.
c1928: Left school, travelled to Sydney.
c1930: Studied art at Julian Ashton Art School, Sydney
Mid-1930s: Worked as window painter / illustrator at Farmers Department Store, Sydney (possibly under Ewart Collings).
1936: Joined KG Murray Publishing Company as a staff artist on 14 December 1936 with starting salary of 5 pounds per week. Later became art director.
WWII: Camoufleur in Darwin, with the Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Home Security, Camouflage Unit.
1943: Married Dorothy Butler, school teacher (b. 19 March 1918 at Bombala, NSW) on 2 September 1943, North Sydney, NSW. Dorothy later became a well known pulp fiction writer.
1945-1947: Continued working with KG Murray, also working as a freelance artist.
1947: Exhibited in 'Circle Seven' Art Exhibition, David Jones Sydney 25 June-12 July, 1947, with Frank Beck, Ewart Collings, Gus Digman, Bernard Hesling, Newton Hedstrom, and Marjorie Penglase. Douglas Annand wrote the Foreward for the catalogue, Ewart Collings designed the cover.
1949: Joined George Patterson (advertising) Agency in Sydney (estab 1930s) as a commercial illustrator / art director.
1953: Designed and built house in Turramurra.
1972: Retired from George Patterson Agency.
1972-1990s: Travelled extensively - Europe, Africa (Morocco), Asia.
2003: Died Sydney
Exhibition catalogue/leaflet, Circle Seven Art Exhibition, David Jones Sydney 25 June-12 July, 1947
Miscellaneous papers, Maurice Cork archive
Author interview with son, Vern Cork, August 2011
* See also Dorothy Cork diaries, 1937-2005 (SLNSW collection).
This Maurice Cork collection relates to the Maurice Cork archive which was owned and donated to the Museum by Vern Cork, the son of the artist, in 2011. Both collections were at risk of being dispersed or lost until Vern Cork, the son of the artist, and his friend Kay Johnston offered them to the Museum. The Kay Johnson collection was for a time exposed to profuse levels of moisture, and at risk of total decay.
Vern Cork is delighted that both his father Maurice Cork's, and his mother Dorothy Cork's legacies, will be now be preserved - Maurice Cork's collection at the Powerhouse Museum, the Dorothy Cork pulp fiction and poetry collection at the State Library of New South Wales.