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Friend, Donald (1915-1989)  
page: 1  2  

Beginning in March 1949, Friend made several trips to Italy, where he fell in love with another model turned lover, a good-looking Italian peasant named Attilio Guarracino, whom he brought back to Australia. However, the pattern of short but intense romance repeated itself and the relationship did not last.

Friend then returned to London, where some of his most beautiful figure drawings were executed, many of the young Ibaden boy Omu, an acquaintance of the Nigerian Lapido. Omu Wearing Harlequin Trousers (1953) and Negroes with a Lute (1953) show not only Friend's extraordinary ability to delineate the human form with almost calligraphic precision, but also a camp delight in casting Omu in the comic role of Harlequin.

In the former work, Friend accentuates the slender lines of his model's physique, with Omu shown standing with one hand leaning against the back of a chair, the other placed elegantly on his hip, and dressed in the brightly colored, diamond-patterned pants of Harlequin's costume.

Between 1957 and 1961 Friend settled in Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, before returning to Sydney in 1962. Six years later he moved again, this time to tropical Bali. Although Friend produced better works at other periods in his life, his fame as an expatriate artist was at its height during his time in Bali, where he lived an eccentric and promiscuous lifestyle. Friend considered these to be his "paradise years." He seemed to have found the exotic existence for which he had always yearned.

In 1979, Richard Griffin published Friend's salacious book Bumbooziana, an "investigation into the private habits of elephants, camels, zebras, leopards, etc. and the equally strange customs of men. . . ." Perhaps the most famous of Friend's publications, Bumbooziana generated much sensation when introduced to a prudish Australian public because of its erotic imagery and sexually-explicit nature, its cover page illustrating the sexualized bodies of half-human, half-zebra creations of Friend's wild imagination.

Also in 1979 declining health and difficulty in gaining visa extensions forced Friend back to Australia permanently. He moved first to Melbourne and then returned to Sydney, where he spent the end of his life in a modest rented cottage in Woollahra.

After a lifetime in which the male nude was the centerpiece of his art, in his final years Friend turned mainly to still-lifes. He grew increasingly embittered towards the end of his career, frustrated especially by the loss of his fine motor skills after a stroke that left him half paralyzed and annoyed at the lack of recognition he felt he deserved for his artistic achievements.

Sadly, it was a year after his death on August 17, 1989 that Friend's contribution to Australian art was finally acknowledged by mainstream society, when the Art Gallery of New South Wales mounted a major retrospective of his work, celebrating what truly was an extraordinary life and exceptional Australian talent.

Michelle Antoinette

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arts >> Overview:  Australian Art

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arts >> Overview:  Subjects of the Visual Arts: Nude Males

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Friend, Donald. Bumbooziana. Melbourne: Gryphon Books, 1979.

Fry, Gavin, and Colleen Fry. Donald Friend: Australian War Artist, 1945. Melbourne: John Currey O'Neil Publishers, 1982.

Hawley, Janet. Encounters with Australian Artists. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1993.

Hughes, Robert. Donald Friend. Sydney: Edwards & Shaw, 1965.

Pearce, Barry. Donald Friend, 1915-1989: Retrospective. Sydney: Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1990.


    Citation Information
    Author: Antoinette, Michelle  
    Entry Title: Friend, Donald  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated February 13, 2003  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2002, glbtq, Inc.  


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