Annie Cocker

Born in 1857 to David and Clara Cocker, Annie was one of eight daughters, two of whom died in infancy, and five sons.  David Cocker was one of the pioneers of the North West Coast. He and his brothers owned a fleet of vessels which sailed between the Mersey River and Port Phillip in Victoria, and he was also Master Warden of the Mersey Marine Board and Chairman of the Town Board of Formby. In 1890 Annie’s mother died. According to the inquest held at the time, she took her own life while of unsound mind. 

When she was eighteen Annie was living with her sister Clara in their aunt Catherine’s home at 13 Thomas Street Torquay, when her aunt was approached to relocate the Torquay post office to her house. Her aunt agreed, which resulted in Annie working in the post office. Later she was put in charge of the Burnie Post Office, a position she held until 1883 when, aged 26, she left Tasmania on the Ormuz bound for London. Having developed her reputation as an artist in Tasmania, she intended to visit some of the well-known artistic centres in Europe and to work as a student under the best teachers she could find. She is known to have studied both oil and watercolour painting while overseas.  

 

Cocker Sisters (descendants), East Devonport, 1990, B&W photograph. From Homes of Devon 9 Inside-Out. Photo by Peter Lord, Courtesy Devonport Regional Gallery 1990.038.

 

Returning from England, Annie lived in Launceston and gave painting lessons to students. Around 1893 she moved to West Devonport to live with her widowed father.  She was secretary of the Old Liberal League and regularly wrote newspaper articles on political topics.  

 

Wattle and Wrens by Annie Cocker. Courtesy Devonport Regional Gallery. Photo by Kelly Slater.

 

Annie’s works included scenes of the English, Welsh, and Tasmanian countryside. She also painted portraits of family members. Annie did not always sign her paintings, only signing those works she considered were as good as they could be, with the initials ‘A.C.’ One of her best-known works is “Bush Friends I have Known,” a portfolio of 33 watercolour studies of plants. These paintings were done when she was in her seventies, even though her eyesight was deteriorating by this time.  The studies are of both local and introduced wildflowers collected by two of her nephews from bush surrounding the family home at Cocker’s Creek in Spreyton. 

 

The second ‘Hawthorne’ in Spreyton. The first burnt down. BSMC-4191

 

Annie Cocker died on Friday 10th March 1939 aged 82. 

 

 Written by Leah Johnson

References: 

Launceston Examiner, Tuesday 22nd March 1898, page 4 

North West Post, 24th April 1890 

The Advocate, Monday 13th March 1939 

The Advocate, Wednesday 12th May 1993, pages 7 & 9

Annie Cocker and Her PaintingsFaye Gardam, Tasmanian Historical Research Association Papers and Proceedings Volume 41 Issue 2 June 1994, page 71 

 

Wattle and Wrens was last exhibited in Torquay Stories 2019-2020.