Oh Doktor Man
Still life with a figure

Born Sydney, Australia 1915, died Sydney 1989


Donald Friend, who trained in Sydney and London during the 1930s, was associated with the Hill End artists of New South Wales of the 1950s, after discovering the area with Russell Drysdale. Drysdale and John Olsen remained life-long peers, and Friend was also influential for many other artists particularly in Sydney.

Friend’s works are characterised by a sensuous use of colour, line and form. His paintings reflected the exotic and tropical places of his travels: Africa, Italy, Greece, Sri Lanka, the Torres Strait Islands, and Bali, where he lived for two decades (c.1966–80). These locations, particularly the local people and culture, stimulated his painting, drawing and writing, providing career-long content for his practice.

Working as an official war artist in 1945, Friend served in Labuan, Borneo and Morotui, and produced many insightful drawings from these experiences. Friend predominantly painted figurative works and is well known for his images of young men. In 1955 he won the Blake Prize for his painting St John and Scenes from the Apocalypse (1955).

Friend’s work is held in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, all state galleries, and many regional galleries. A major retrospective of his work was organised by the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 1990.