Born Melbourne, Australia 1913, died Melbourne 1986
Noel Counihan was a passionate social campaigner whose experiences of unemployment and poverty during the 1930s drove him to create powerful images of the working class.
Studying briefly at the National Gallery School, Melbourne in 1930, Counihan found greater significance in the social realist artists he met there who shared his political beliefs. Inspired by Marxism, he began printmaking in 1931, producing dramatic linocuts and lithographs for Communist magazine covers. His passion for modern art, communism and atheism made him prominent among Melbourne’s radical intellectual and artistic circles, and he became a founding member of the Contemporary Art Society, Melbourne (1938).
Encouraged by Yosl Bergner, Counihan began painting in the 1940s, and inspired by visits to Broken Hill and Wonthaggi, he began to explore the theme of miners. The injured miner, completed in 1963, was exhibited in the Realist Group Inaugural Exhibition, Victorian Artists Society Galleries, Melbourne (1964), and shows the enduring interest that this subject held for the artist.
He exhibited extensively in Australia and from the 1950s his work was exhibited in England and Eastern Europe. In 1973 a retrospective of his work was held at the National Gallery of Victoria, and in 1978 the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery exhibited Noel Counihan, Faces and Figures. Counihan’s work is held in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, most state and many regional galleries. In 1993, art historian Bernard Smith published a biography entitled Noel Counihan: artist and revolutionary.