Ray Crooke was born in Auburn, Victoria in 1922. Throughout the majority of his adult life he has lived and worked in Northern Queensland, and travelled extensively throughout Australia, Torres Strait and Pacific regions. His powerful imagery and vibrant colours have made Crooke one of Australia’s most highly regarded artists.
Crooke first encountered the landscape as a young man enlisted in the army, where he travelled from Western Australia to Townsville, through Cape York Peninsula and the Atherton Tableland to Chillagoe and to Thursday Island, where he worked as a map-maker. These initial observations of vegetation, climate, hue and light underpinned his techniques as a landscape painter, and paved a way for many paintings in the 1960s and 70s.
Ray Crooke is an avid drawer, recording ink, pen and watercolour sketches of his observations in notebooks. From these personal recordings he develops ideas and composition for the paintings.
Although Ray Crooke has been continually painting the Australian landscape since the early 1950s, he is perhaps best known for his life long affiliation with the Pacific and Fijian Islands. Since the late 1960s his images of the tropical north of Australia and the Pacific islands have enticed and enchanted viewers. Crooke continues to develop paintings from frequent trips to Fiji and to this day still travels to Fiji with his wife June.
Crooke was awarded an honorary doctorate and was made a member of the Order of Australia in 1993 for his contribution to Australian art. Crooke has also been the recipient of several notable awards. He won the Archibald prize in 1969 for his portrait of the writer, George Johnston. His work is represented by all state galleries, many regional galleries and the Vatican Museum in Rome.