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The Donald Friend Diaries

The Donald Friend Diaries: Chronicles & Confessions of an Australian Artist

Donald Friend and Ian Britain

At age fourteen, Donald Friend declared: ‘Have done quite a lot of painting lately, and have made up my mind that I shall be an artist. And I shall be famous!’

Friend achieved his aim. He also left behind more than two million words of brilliant, intimate diary entries—one of the greatest acts of autobiography in Australian history. This is the first single-volume selection of these writings and includes material from the two ‘lost’ wartime diaries recently unearthed in America by Ian Britain, along with handsome sketches by Friend.

Everyone is here: Russell Drysdale, Margaret Olley, Jeffrey Smart, Robert Helpmann, Barry Humphries and Robert Hughes, Mick Jagger and Gore Vidal. Friend’s frank and often acerbic reflections trace his career, acquaintances and love affairs—in Australia, England, Italy, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Bali—as well as many of the notable characters and events of the twentieth century.

Most of all, the diaries attest to his ceaseless desire to understand and master his art. ‘Neither love, food, writing, money or music, nor flattery nor sincere admiration nor the company of friends (all the things I am most partial to),’ Friend wrote, ‘could seduce me from my painting.’ Reworked into a chronological narrative, and supplemented by material from correspondence and interviews, The Donald Friend Diaries reveal an extraordinary Australian life.

About the Authors

Donald Friend (1915–1989) is one of Australia’s most significant artists.

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Ian Britain is a former editor of Meanjin and his books include Once an Australian: Journeys with Barry Humphries, Clive James, Germaine Greer and Robert Hughes. He is writing Donald Friend’s biography.

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Text publication date:
27 September 2010
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Praise for Donald Friend and Ian Britain
andThe Donald Friend Diaries

‘This is a remarkable historical document (with cameos from Mick Jagger and Gore Vidal, among numerous others) that charts an extraordinary life. Friend’s striking prose and obvious love of language, frank observations and acerbic wit make this a delight to read…This is an invaluable reference for anyone interested in Australian art, literature and history.’