HILL END, c.1951

Works from the Donald Friend Collection
27 October 2013


(1915 - 1989)
HILL END, c.1951

oil on canvas

30.0 x 40.0 cm

signed lower right: DONALD FRIEND

$30,000 - 40,000
Sold for $33,600 (inc. BP) in Auction 31 - 27 October 2013, Sydney
Catalogue text

The name 'Hill End' has a magical appeal, a little like that of the 'Heidelberg School' and its associations with masters of Australian art and their masterpieces. Donald Friend and Russell Drysdale were fascinated by Hill End and Sofala from their very first visit in 1947, both painting a view of the main street of Sofala immediately after their return to Sydney. Drysdale's painting, Sofala, 1947 (Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney), won the Wynne Prize for that year, Friend's nigh identical view being in a private collection. While Drysdale's oil of Hill End, 1948 is in the collection of the Geelong Art Gallery, Victoria, and his Picture of Donald Friend, 1948 is also in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, it is above all his The Cricketers, 1948 that gives lustre to the place, the side of the Hill End building against which the locals are having an informal knock being of like kind to the Royal Hotel of cast iron balcony and other proud remnants of the past. Writing about Donald Friend, Robert Hughes commented, 'The surrounding country was beautiful, and the place possessed a kind of elegiac quiet which neither Friend nor Drysdale could resist.'1

When Friend bought his cottage at Hill End, he made sure that the Royal was within easy walking distance. Settling down to paint and draw the landscape, Houses on Big Oakey, 1948 (National Gallery of Australia, Canberra), is a fine example from that time. The place appealed to him so much that he wrote and illustrated the book Hillendiana: 'Comprising vast numbers of facts and a considerable amount of fiction concerning the Goldfields of Hillend [sic]' and a commentary both Grave and Ribald.'2 Friend's presence attracted fellow artists of the quality of Margaret Olley, David Strachan, Jeffrey Smart, and in later years Brett Whiteley. It soon led to the establishment of an artist's colony. Following his Italian visit of 1949-50, Friend returned to Hill End to indulge further in his captivation by its extraordinary, at times surreal landscape. In Hill End, c1951 the eroded forms of Nuggety Gully dominate the foreground, as does the Royal Hotel hold the centre view. Like the townspeople and their buildings, his painted place is packed with character. The scars of the landscape, geometric and sharp edged, interrelate with the architecture, Hill End's rich history captured in the ruins and the presence of time passed. To add to its unique beauty, Friend dressed all in the most beautifully seductive of colours.

1. Hughes, R., Donald Friend, Edwards and Shaw, Sydney, 1965, p. 56
2. Friend, D., Hillendiana, Ure Smith, Sydney, 1956