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Donald Friend

Donald Stuart Leslie Friend (6 February 1914 – 16 August 1989) was an Australian artist and diarist.

Donald Friend
Portrait of artist Donald Friend.jpg
Photograph of Donald Friend. Photographer: Michel Lawrence.
Born Donald Stuart Leslie Friend
6 February 1914
Cremorne, New South Wales, Australia
Died 16 August 1989(1989-08-16) (aged 75)
Nationality Australian
Known for Painting, Diarist


Early lifeEdit

Born in Sydney, Friend grew up in the artistic circle of his bohemian mother and showed early talent both as an artist and a writer. 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 a friendship with Russell Drysdale, which led to their joint discovery of Hill End, a quasi-abandoned gold mining village near Bathurst, New South Wales, which in the 1950s became something of an artists' colony. He also served as an official war artist in Labuan and Balikpapan in 1945.[1] After the war he lived for a time in the Sydney mansion-boarding house Merioola, exhibiting with the Merioola Group.

Much of Friend's life and career was 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), Ceylon (now Sri Lanka; late 1950s – early 1960s), and Bali from 1968 until his final return to Sydney in 1980.[2]


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.[citation needed]

Despite winning the Blake Prize for Religious Art in 1955, Friend made "no attempt to disguise the homoeroticism which underlay much of his work".[3] He was well known for studies of the young male nude,[4], including nude male children,[5] as well as his wit.[6] 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 published a number of illustrated books, almost all in limited editions.[citation needed]


Friend's diaries were published posthumously from 2001 to 2006 by the National Library of Australia[7] in four volumes. He had kept a diary since the age of 14. It chronicled in half a million words a life peopled with such artists as Drysdale, Margaret Olley, Jeffrey Smart, Brett Whiteley and others.

Friend did not mince words about his sexual preferences, depicting himself as "a middle-aged pederast who's going to seed" in his journal.[8]His relationships were mostly with adolescent boys. For example, in the 1960s Friend wrote in his diary of a 10 year old boy: "[He] spent the night with me. I hope life will continue forever to offer me delicious surprises ... and that I will always be delighted and surprised. He goes about the act of love with a charmingly self-possessed grace: gaily, affectionately, and enthusiastically. And in these matters he's very inventive and not at all sentimental for all the caresses."[9] A few boys became his lifelong friends, particularly Attilio Guarracino, whom he met when Guarracino was 19 years old,[10] however, in interviews with Kerry Negara, some of Friend's former victims report being ashamed and traumatised by their childhood sexual experiences with him.[11]

Volume Four 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".[12]

In 2009, documentary film-maker Kerry Negara released her documentary "A Loving Friend",[13] which exposed the fact that Friend regularly sexually abused pre-teen "houseboys" while living in Bali, and through interviews with artists, critics and academics sought to establish that the "arts elite of Australia continue to deny any wrongdoing on Friend's part." [14]

Major collectionsEdit

See alsoEdit


  • 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. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 1 April 2012. Retrieved 20 October 2011.  Australian War Memorial collection
  2. ^ "Artist Biographies: Friend, Donald Stuart Leslie". Australian Art. Wayback Machine. 2007–2011. Archived from the original on 10 July 2007. Retrieved 22 February 2017. 
  3. ^ "Donald Friend, Paintings for sale at Savill Galleries by this great Australian artist". 19 March 2005. Archived from the original on 8 October 2011. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  4. ^ "Donald Friend – Three Nudes". Archived from the original on 28 September 2011. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  5. ^ "Donald Friend - Nude Studies, Bali". 
  6. ^ "Donald Friend – Mrs Brodie and Little Angus". Archived from the original on 28 September 2011. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  7. ^ "The Donald Friend Diaries". 21 March 2002. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  8. ^ The Diaries of Donald Friend, Volume Three, edited by Paul Hetherington. National Library of Australia, 2005
  9. ^ "Our favourite paedophile: Why is Donald Friend still celebrated?, By Antony Funnell for Books and Arts, ABC Radio National". 
  10. ^ "Attilio Guarracino: Remembering Life with Donald Friend in Bali". 
  11. ^ "A Loving Friend". 
  12. ^ "NLA Bookshop "Diaries of Donald Friend, Volume 4"". Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  13. ^ "A Loving Friend". 
  14. ^ "Screen Australia, The Screen Guide, A Loving Friend". 
  15. ^ "The Holmes à Court Collection". Holmes à Court Gallery. Archived from the original on 19 July 2008. Retrieved 13 January 2011. 

External linksEdit