painter, engraver, cartoonist (?), illustrator and draughtsman, was born in England. After studying with James Duffield Harding (1797-1863), a watercolourist and lithographer who also taught John Ruskin, Cooke migrated to Victoria in 1854. He apparently tried his luck on the goldfields then reverted to art. His large pencil drawing of the city of Melbourne in 1858 (La Trobe Library [LT]) is a minute and delicate view of the city looking west. The Harbour of Warrnambool. Light-house and Middle Island , engraved by Pett from a drawing by Cooke, was published in the Colonial Mining Journal of Victoria (1858-59); a wood engraving signed 'A. Cook’, Ballarat from Black Hill , was produced in 1868. He depicted two Bendigo quartz miners, The Ballerstedt Brothers (LT), in an oil painting executed some time in the 1860s, evidently a commission.
A.C. Cooke was listed in Melbourne directories as a 'draughtsman-artist’ in St Kilda between 1865 and 1869, first at Robe Street and later at the Esplanade, as well as at 103 Bourke Street West in the city. He did a considerable amount of work as an architectural draughtsman and was subsequently made a fellow of the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects despite the lack of any formal architectural training. His architectural ('geometric’) view of Hobart Town, published in the Australasian Sketcher , was described in detail in the Hobart Town Mercury on 9 May 1879.
He may also have been 'A.C.’, the chief cartoonist on Ballarat Punch in the late 1860s, ed. C.A. Abbott et al., but this is far more likely to have been Alfred Clint . Although Cooke worked as an illustrator for newspapers such as the Illustrated Australian News and the Leader , the Picturesque Atlas of Australasia (c.1883-88) and for books such as the Illustrated Handbook of Victoria (1886) throughout his career, he was a serious 'high artist’ and seems unlikely to have done such coarse cartoons as this 'A.C’ did. Clifford Craig, however, has identified his prints of Tasmanian interest – which are initialled 'A.C.’ – published in the Illustrated Melbourne Post , Illustrated Tasmanian News and Illustrated Sydney News between 1867 and 1875.
A member of the Council of the Victorian Academy of Arts from its foundation in 1870 until 1873, Cooke exhibited with its annually until 1879. A drawing of Dunedin in 1875 was engraved in Melbourne and issued as a supplement to the Illustrated New Zealand News on 2 July. Cooke moved to Western Australia about 1890, where he produced watercolours of local scenes (e.g. Figures on the Beach, Sorrento, 1890 , Leonard Joel, May 1977) and at least one chromo-lithographic view, Fremantle (1894). He retired to Melbourne and died in his residence at Albert Park in April 1902. Several watercolour paintings of Tasmanian scenes were offered for sale at Sotheby’s The Colonial Sale , Hobart, 7 September 1997.