Donald Friend

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Donald Friend
Portrait of artist Donald Friend.jpg
Photograph of Donald Friend. Photographer: Michel Lawrence.
Born Donald Stuart Leslie Friend
6 February 1915
Cremorne, New South Wales, Australia
Died 16 August 1989
Nationality Australian
Known for Painting, Diarist

Donald Stuart Leslie Friend (6 February 1915 – 16 August 1989) was an Australian artist, writer and diarist.[1]

Early life[edit]

Born in Sydney, precociously talented both as an artist and a writer, Friend grew up in the artistic circle of his bohemian mother. He studied with Sydney Long (1931) and Dattilo Rubbo (1934–1935), and later in London (1936–1937) at the Westminster School of Art with Mark Gertler and Bernard Meninsky. During World War II he served as a gunner with the AIF, and while stationed at Albury began an important friendship with Russell Drysdale which was to culminate in their joint discovery of Hill End, a quasi-abandoned gold mining village near Bathurst, New South Wales, which was to become something of an artists' colony in the 1950s. He also served as an official war artist in Labuan and Balikpapan in 1945.[2] After the war he lived for a time in the Sydney mansion-boarding house Merioola, exhibiting with the so-called Merioola Group.

Much of Friend's life and career were spent outside Australia, in places as diverse as Nigeria (late 1930s, where he served as financial advisor to the Ogoga of Ikerre), Italy (several visits in the 1950s), Sri Lanka (late 1950s – early 1960s, from whence dates this view of the city of Colombo[3]), and Bali from 1968 until his final return to Sydney in 1980.


Friend's critical reputation in the 1940s equalled those of William Dobell and Russell Drysdale, but by the time of his death it had sunk so low that his work was totally absent from the 1988 Australian Bicentennial exhibition, a show meant to include every artist of importance since white settlement.

Friend made "no attempt to disguise the homoeroticism which underlay much of his work",[4] despite winning the Blake Prize for Religious Art in 1955. Nor did he mince words about his sexual preferences, depicting himself as "a middle-aged pederast who's going to seed" in his journal.[5] His relationships consisted in large part of a series of affairs with adolescent boys, some of whom became his lifelong friends, particularly Attilio Guarracino.

Friend was well known for studies of the young male nude,[6] as well as his wit.[7] His facility as a draughtsman may have contributed to the undervaluing of his work, which art scholar Lou Klepac said "always looked too easy – decorative, flowing and natural." In the mid-1960s, Robert Hughes described him as "one of the two finest draughtsmen of the nude in Australia," and noted his humanism and lack of sentimentality, while still maintaining that he was not a major artist. Barry Pearce, however, writing in the study which accompanied Friend's posthumous retrospective at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 1990, said that Hughes' judgement seemed harsh and called for a re-evaluation of Friend as an artist whose "contribution to the richness of Australian art is due for much greater recognition."

Friend also published a number of illustrated books, almost all in limited editions, which displayed the same wit and sensuality that informs much of his art. In 2001 the National Library of Australia began publishing the journals that Friend had kept since he was 14, and which chronicled in half a million words a life peopled with such artists as Drysdale, Margaret Olley, Jeffrey Smart, Brett Whiteley and others.


Friend's diaries were published posthumously from 2001–2006 by the National Library of Australia[8] in four volumes. Volume 4 dealt in part with Friend's time in Bali in the 1960s and '70s; publicity claimed "this volume confirms Friend's quicksilver creative brilliance and extraordinary insight. He is perhaps Australia's most important twentieth-century diarist."[9]

Following the publication of Volume 4, accusations were made that the publishers had not been granted permission to publicly name some of Friend's sexual partners, who were minors at the time of their encounters with Friend.[10] There were also accusations that Friend's paedophilia had been whitewashed by Australian art scholars.[10][11][12][13]

Major collections[edit]

See also[edit]


  • Donald Friend, Robert Hughes, Edwards and Shaw, Sydney, 1965
  • Donald Friend: Australian War Artist 1945, Gavin Fry and Colleen Fry, Currey O'Neill, Melbourne, 1982
  • Donald Friend 1915–1989 Retrospective, Barry Pearce, 1990
  • The Diaries of Donald Friend, Volume 1, Ed. Anne Gray, 2001, ISBN 0-642-10738-6
  • The Diaries of Donald Friend, Volume 2, Ed. Paul Hetherington, 2003, ISBN 978-0-642-10765-7
  • The Diaries of Donald Friend, Volume 3, Ed. Paul Hetherington, 2005, ISBN 978-0-642-27602-5
  • The Diaries of Donald Friend, Volume 4, Ed. Paul Hetherington, 2006, ISBN 978-0-642-27644-5
  • The Donald Friend Diaries, Ed. Ian Britain, 2010, ISBN 978-1-921656-70-5
  • The Lives of Donald Friend: Towards a Biography of an Australian Artist in an International Social Setting, Ian Britain, Meanjin, Melbourne March–May 2008
  • Donald Friend The Australian Landscape and its Artists, Bay Books, Sydney 1977 p 58-59


  1. ^ Australian Dictionary of Biography
  2. ^ [1] Australian War Memorial collection
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Donald Friend, Paintings for sale at Savill Galleries by this great Australian artist". 19 March 2005. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  5. ^ The Diaries of Donald Friend, Volume Three, edited by Paul Hetherington. National Library of Australia, 2005
  6. ^ "Donald Friend – Three Nudes". Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  7. ^ "Donald Friend – Mrs Brodie and Little Angus". Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  8. ^ "The Donald Friend Diaries". 21 March 2002. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  9. ^ "NLA Bookshop "Diaries of Donald Friend, Volume 4"". Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  10. ^ a b "ABC Radio National, The Law Report "Identifying victims of child sexual assault and abuse"". Australia: ABC. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  11. ^ "The Age "Photos 'in realm of porn' under state laws"". The Age. Australia. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  12. ^ "ABC Radio National, Late Night Live "Donald Friend"". 12 August 2009. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  13. ^ Sorensen, Rosemary (26 November 2008). "The Australian "Artists fail to admit Friend was a pedophile, says filmmaker"". Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  14. ^ "The Holmes à Court Collection". Holmes à Court Gallery. Archived from the original on 19 July 2008. Retrieved 13 January 2011. 

External links[edit]