Donald Friend

Donald Friend
Donald Friend
Birth name Donald Stuart Leslie Friend
Born 6 February 1915
Cremorne, New South Wales, Australia
Died 16 August 1989
Nationality Australian
Field Painting, Diarist

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


Early life

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-cum-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 life-long friends, particularly Attilio Guarracino. His exhibitions were raided by the Vice Squad several times.

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 faithfully 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]

Reported in The Age in May 2008, Bernadette McMenamin, chief executive of the child protection lobby group Childwise, said of Friend "He wrote diaries describing his sexual abuse of children and yet Australia still looks the other way because he produced beautiful art."[11] Speaking on ABC Radio in November 2008, filmmaker Kerry Negara said of the publishers "instead of embracing those parts of the diaries where he talks about sex with children and adolescents as young as 9, 10, 12 years old in Bali, instead they decided to go down that route of denying it and even kind of turning Friend into a nice culturally accepted paedophile, at best."[10] In November and December 2008, Negara's film about Friend's sexual behaviour in Bali was discussed on ABC Radio, in The Australian and the Herald Sun.[14][13][15][16] The film A Loving Friend screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival in August 2009[17] and at the Canberra International Film Festival in November 2009,[18] and discussed again on ABC Radio in August 2009,[12] where Paul Hetherington, editor of the published diaries, was quoted about Friend's art, writing and publishing activities as saying "I don't think that Friend behaved in ways which would attract criticism, or much criticism, from people today..."

Major collections

See also


  • 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 9780642107657
  • The Diaries of Donald Friend, Volume 3, Ed. Paul Hetherington, 2005, ISBN 9780642276025
  • The Diaries of Donald Friend, Volume 4, Ed. Paul Hetherington, 2006, ISBN 9780642276445
  • "The Donald Friend Diaries, Ed. Ian Britain, 2010, ISBN 9781921656705
  • "The Lives of Donald Friend: Towards a Biography of an Australian Artist in an International Social Setting", Ian Britain, Meanjin, Melbourne March–May 2008

External links


  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 c "ABC Radio National, The Law Report "Identifying victims of child sexual assault and abuse"". Australia: ABC. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  11. ^ a b "The Age "Photos 'in realm of porn' under state laws"". The Age. Australia. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  12. ^ a b "ABC Radio National, Late Night Live "Donald Friend"". 12 August 2009. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  13. ^ a b Sorensen, Rosemary (26 November 2008). "The Australian "Artists fail to admit Friend was a pedophile, says filmmaker"".,25197,24708209-5013571,00.html. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  14. ^ "ABC Radio National, Artworks "A Loving Friend"". Australia: ABC. 30 November 2008. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  15. ^ Andrew, By (17 December 2008). "Herald Sun "Bartender, make it a double standard"".,27574,24810898-5007146,00.html. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  16. ^ ", Andrew Bolt Blog "The pedophile an artist would love"". Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  17. ^ "Widescreen – Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF)". Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  18. ^ "A Loving Friend – Canberra International Film Festival". 1 November 2009. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  19. ^ "The Holmes à Court Collection". Holmes à Court Gallery. Archived from the original on 19 July 2008. Retrieved 13 January 2011. 

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