Donald Stuart Leslie Friend (1915-1989) was a painter, draughtsman, decorator and writer, and an early leading figure in modern art in Australia. More details about his life and career are available from the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

The National Library of Australia published edited versions of his diaries in four volumes between 2001 and 2006. The published diaries are out of print.

In recent years, Friend's behaviour relating to children has been questioned, and is now generally considered to have been sexual abuse of minors. The National Library deplores this behaviour.


In 1978 the Library purchased from the Melbourne dealer Joseph Brown the manuscript of Birds from the Magic Mountain. The other three illustrated manuscripts of Donald Friend were acquired from Friend in 1983. In 1984 Friend began to donate his diaries to the Library under the Taxation Incentives for the Arts Scheme and by the time of his death 34 volumes (1930-59) had been acquired. The remaining ten diaries and two notebooks were purchased from Friend’s executor in 1992. A manuscript on Balinese bronzes was bought from Peter Krantz of Sydney in 1994. The papers of Richard Griffin were acquired in 1991.


Manuscripts and Personal Papers

(i) The Diaries of Donald Friend

The Library holds 44 diaries of Donald Friend. Two of the diaries were written in 1930-31, when he was an adolescent. The series resumes in June 1942. There is a gap in the sequence between January 1968 and October 1969, as the diary for that period is held in the National Gallery of Australia. With that exception, there are no significant gaps in the period 1942-87. Two volumes contain a few entries for 1988, by which time Friend was in very poor health. It is not known whether Friend kept diaries between 1932 and 1942. The only other diaries known to exist are a 1929 diary held in the State Library of Queensland and the 1968-69 diary in the National Gallery of Australia.

(ii) Manuscripts

The Library holds four of Friend’s manuscript books: Bumbooziana (1975), Birds from the Magic Mountain (1977), The Story of Jonah (1979) and Ayam Kesayangan III – the Prodigal Son’s Return (1980-82).

(iii) Letters of Donald Friend

The main collection of letters of Friend were written to Donald Murray (MS 8209). There are about 80 letters written from Sydney, Albury, Brisbane, Cairns, London, Florence, Portofino, Ikerre and Singapore. The letters (photocopies) are mostly undated, and some are incomplete, but they seem to date from approximately 1938-50.

(iv) Papers of Richard Griffin

The seven albums of Richard Griffin (1937-1991), the Sydney bookseller, publisher and owner of Gryphon Press, are a major source on the later years of Donald Friend.

Oral history

The Library holds four oral history interviews with Donald Friend:

TRC 1/6 Interview with Hazel de Berg, 1963 (1 reel)

TRC 132 Interview with Ken Henderson, 1970 (1 cassette)

TRC 1793 Interview with Barbara Blackman, 1984 (3 cassettes)

TRC 5182 Interviews with Lou Klepac, 1980-84 (15 cassettes)


The Library holds one painting by Friend, a photomontage with oil, created as a hoax to illustrate an article written by Friend in 1940 on Australian primitive colonial art. It is entitled Early Australian primitive: boy with a poodle by Michael Collins (PIC/4038).