DONALD FRIEND (1915/1989), AUSTRALIAN PAINTER – The Duke of Bali

Driven by the feeling of the insufficiency of life

DONALD FRIEND 1/3 – Born in Sydney in 1915, he was a mid 20th century painter, cartoonist and author. His diaries (he kept from the age of 13), show his determination to become an artist. At the age 17 he lived for some time with North Queensland family, beginning a series of drawings. He was influenced by the English school of draughtsmanship, but also absorbed the influence of Georges Braque. In 1934 he returned to Sydney, to study, and in 1936 he travelled to London as an art student. In addition to landscapes, from the late 1930s he made many drawings of young male nudes, which remain among his finest work. He admired handsome young men, and was besotted with the idea of drawing them. In the mid-1960s, he was one of the two finest draughtsmen of the nude in Australia. Much of his life he spent out of Australia, in Nigeria and Italy, Ceylon and Bali from 1968 until his final return to Sydney in 1980. In Canberra, visiting the National Gallery of Australia, you can admire some of his paintings.

DONALD FRIEND 2/3 – He dressed like Oscar Wilde. “The Duke”, as he became known, flouted conventions throughout his life. Born into a highly educated family, he grew up hating the shallowness of Sydney society, becoming not only a famed decorative painter, but one of the finest Australian draughtsmen. He joined Australian military service in 1942. His army psychiatrist Cedric Swanton prescribed him weekends off, to go painting, spending time in Albury with Russell Drysdale. Together, after the war the two discovered the abandoned mining area of Hill End (a village near Bathurst, New South Wales), which became something as an artists’ colony. In 1946 Donald moved to Merioola (a boarding house at Woollahra, which was a Bohemian enclave).

DONALD FRIEND 3/3 – On his return to Australia in 1953, he often run away from unhappy love affairs, painting at Hill End and at Drysdale’s studio in Sydney. At the time of his death his reputation was so low, that his work totally absented at Australian Bicentennial exhibition in 1988. His diaries (it chronicled in half a million words of life peopled with many other artists), were published posthumously. In his life and art he enjoyed playing practical jokes. At Cowaramup, the Holmes à Court collection (an art gallery located in the original Vasse Felix winery) has significant works of this painter.

The intellectual property of the images that appear in this blog correspond to their authors. The sole purpose of this site, is to spread the knowledge of these artists and that other people enjoy their works. To pursue this issue, you can digit:



Check Also


Sometimes they are not enough; you need colors and shapes to enliven the words Poetry …