Works from the Donald Friend Collection
27 October 2013


(1915 - 1989)

ink, watercolour and gouache on paper

54.5 x 45.0 cm

signed and dated lower left: Donald Friend. '53.

$10,000 - 15,000
Sold for $14,400 (inc. BP) in Auction 31 - 27 October 2013, Sydney

Donald Friend Retrospective, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 9 February – 25 March 1990; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 14 April – 6 June 1990; and Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart, 26 June – 19 August 1990 (label attached verso)
Donald Friend, A Charmed Life, National Library of Australia, Canberra, 9 November 2006 – 4 February 2007, final diary launch (volume 4)


Pearce, B., Donald Friend, 1915–1989: Retrospective, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1990, cat. 58, p. 80 (illus.)

Catalogue text

Following his rushed visit to Spain in September 1952, Friend returned to London early in October for the opening of his exhibition at the Redfern Gallery at the end of the month. In the meantime he met Omu, an Ibadan boy whom he had first seen at Lapido's house when he was in London two years earlier. The meeting stimulated a period of work which included some of the artist's most beautiful figure drawings: 'These days have been very happy. I have done excellent work - my hand has found a great certainty' Each day Omu comes, poses while I draw, helps me get lunch, amuses me and as it were wraps me in his warm affection, so simple and trusting. Now this I know is exactly that sort of relationship I searched so long for' Perhaps I understand and sympathise more with Africans, in any case I know I shall not be fooled and betrayed' (diary entries 19 and 22 October 1952).

Typically, after a few months, Friend's relationship with Omu began to sour with its progressive demand on his finances. However in the few weeks before Omu returned to Africa in May 1953, there was a prolific spate of drawings made of him, and on 15 April Friend recorded, 'I've been painting Omu as Harlequin: very pretty.' Two days earlier Francis Lymburner had visited Friend and also made drawings of Omu. On 25 April Friend wrote: 'My only deep regret comes when I look through my folios and at the walls of the studio where I have pinned up the best of the drawings I have made of him' I am less sorry for him than I am for my intention of banishing his beauty from my pen.'1

1. Pearce, B., Donald Friend, 1915-1989: Retrospective, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1990, pp. 80-81