28 February 2013

DONALD FRIEND 6 Feb 1915 - 16 August 1989

Splendid summary by my first local paper, the Sydney Morning Herald.
  • Of all the pictures under probate and for sale in our late mother's house in Corfu, none has been attracting more interest or appreciation than the wonderful portrait by Donald Friend of this gorgeous Balinese boy.
A truly eyecatching conversation piece in the corridors of San Luca.

  • Many people think it's the Ibaden boy, Omu.
  • My mother's travels included Bali where she met Friend and, according to her notebook of the time, was spendidly entertained by this artistic Sydney Greenstreet.
  • Sell or not to sell? Depends on the valuation and price offered, I suppose. It is currently part of a consignment of our mother's pictures being stored in the dehumidified safety of my brother's Tuscan villa as we make our joint researches through the art world.
  • The Duke of Bali - another clever dubbing, this one from Art Collector.
  • Bali VIPs
  • John Moyle in Nat Library of Australia
  • Eva Breuer ~ another dealer with an impressive line in Friend oeuvres. This is what these specialists live for ~ a collector like my mother sits on a picture like this for 60 or so years, finally passes away - and opah! Up it comes on the market. A real waiting game, isn't it? 
  • And did you see the reference on the Breuer page about 'Artworks for $6,000 and under.' I must quickly let my brother know these price ranges. 
  • Breuer blurb - note, also, their excellent informative blurb:
An extraordinary draughtsman, diarist, printmaker and painter, Donald Friend was known for his intelligence, remarkable inventiveness and pungent wit; qualities which infuse every canvas and sheet he laid his mark upon.
Friend was trained in Sydney and London, however, his proclivity for travel and the search for the exceptional and the exotic, led him to destinations as far flung as Africa, Sri Lanka and Indonesia.
His vision was informed by his admiration for the satire and fantasy of artists such as S.T. Gill, Bosch and Breughel, and his acute observations of life during his years as a war artist bear comparison with the masterful drawings of Goya and Henry Moore.
Friend’s skilled portrayal of the human form, in particular the male figure, through the breathtaking quantity of drawings, watercolours, prints, and paintings owes as much to the inspiration fuelled by the study of Michelangelo and Hogarth, as his ability to delineate forms in an almost calligraphic line, mixed with a sensitivity for colour and design.
Admired by his contemporaries, including Russell Drysdale, for his outstanding flair as a colourist, his decorative sensibilities resulted from his response to the richly coloured compositions of Matisse and lavish brilliance of Byzantine art.
More recently, Friend’s talent for illustration and articulate writing may be evidenced through the publication of the artist’s diaries by the National Library of Australia.
Feedback during research : while researching possible sales outlets and accurate evaluations, I have come across a plethora of fascinating facts.
  • In London, Friend met a Nigerian, Ladipo, who became his male model and lover.
  • During World War II, Friend was appointed an Official War Artist.

  • After the war, Friend met the handsome art student Colin Brown. Friend wrote in his diary, "My whole life is Colin. Not particularly Colin himself, but my love and appreciation and desire for the Colins of this world and my life."
  • In Italy, Friend fell in love with a model called Attilio Guarracino, whom he brought back to Australia.
  • Once more in London, Friend made figure drawings of a young Ibaden boy called Omu. [I wonder if this is the lad in our sketch?]
  • In Bali, Friend gained fame as an expatriate artist. Much of his art represents relationships with boys, 'some of whom remained as life-long friends'.
  • Friend wrote several books. The original manuscripts are archived in the major museums of Australia and in important private collections.
  • Friend wrote: "The artist is making a confession of his inner being, so he is really making a confession about himself.
I really think that when you see a painting which expresses absolutely nothing of the artist, then you can be certain that it is a very bad painting.
There are lots of bad paintings around. If you paint a wonderful picture, then you have put yourself into it!"
  • According to BaliBlog (Important People in Bali: Donald Friend Bali Blog):
"Friend was essentially a pagan, bereft of any sense of sin or guilt, reveling in sensuality and colour, and making no attempt to disguise the homo-eroticism which underlay much of his work - which makes the more surprising the fact that he won the Blake Prize for religious art in 1955.
"Nor did he mince words about his attractions, depicting himself in his journal as 'a middle-aged pederast who’s going to seed'.
His relationships consisted in large part of a series of relations with adolescent boys, some of whom remained as life-long friends, particularly Attilio Guarracino and others who merely fleeced the artist for whom they had modeled."
  • John Moyle has an article about the Bali lifestyle of Donald Friend:"There was also nothing unusual in a gay man living in the community, as there had already been a long tradition of homosexual artists taking up residence in Bali.
"Known locally as ‘The Group’, artists such as Walter Spies, Rudolf Bonnet and Auke Sonnega were to exist there for long periods, living a thin line between acceptance and scandal.
In the 1930s, Bali was known in gay circles as a place tolerant to gay lifestyle and where a little money could buy a grand lifestyle.
"While Balinese culture does not officially recognise gays as a separate lifestyle, they do recognise that sexuality is fluid and manifests itself in many forms. This tolerance was historically evident in the Indo Malay courts of Java."


Also for sale
  • Two splendid Kyffin Willamses as well as some smaller work by the late Welsh genius. Also a friend of my mother's and clearly a prolific writer: in my tidying up of my mother's affairs, I keep coming across letters in Kyffin's distinctive bold hand.
  • Prints of John Piper, Eric Kennington, Michael Ayrton.

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