Works from the Donald Friend Collection
27 October 2013


(1915 - 1989)

ink and watercolour on paper

30.5 x 41.0 cm

signed, dated and inscribed upper left: The Dead, Labuan. / July 26th '45 / Donald Friend

$8,000 - 12,000
Sold for $20,400 (inc. BP) in Auction 31 - 27 October 2013, Sydney
Catalogue text

Donald Friend accompanied the Australian forces which landed on the island of Labuan, off the coast of Borneo, in June 1945. The first drawings Friend produced on Labuan depicted the devastated landscape, the troops and the native people. By late June he had made his first studies of the bodies of Japanese soldiers, who had been killed when they infiltrated the harbour area. These drawings included simple pen and ink works showing tangled piles of bodies and a coloured drawing of two bodies, on and under a table like structure. Friend also drew quick studies of the bodies of the last large party of Japanese encountered on Labuan, depicting them laid on and around a makeshift platform. These drawings became part of a larger coloured work entitled 'Nature morte (Still life)' and together they form the basis of this large painting he produced after his return to Sydney in October 1945. 'Japanese dead from suicide raid' was painted in November 1945 while Friend was staying with Drysdale, and aspects of the picture show the influence the two artists had on each other. The work shows a twisted sinuous jumble of dead bodies lying on top of and below a large sheet of metal. The mainstays of Friend's art are the male body and an interest in colour and decorative composition. This work incorporates these elements creating a sensual image, despite its gruesome subject. A related painting of the same title, created in 1946, is part of the Newcastle Region Art Gallery collection.'1

1. Australian War Memorial, Canberra,, accessed 25 September 2013