Donald Friend | Australia b.1915 d.1989 | Adam and Eve | c.1957-61 | Oil and gold leaf on wood | 205 x 81cm | Acc. 2010.577 Purchased 2010 with funds from Philip Bacon, AM, through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation
Adam and Eve c.1957-61
The decorative doors that Donald Friend painted are amongst his largest, most complex and engaging works. His first door was painted in Brisbane in 1955 and Friend executed several more during the time he resided in Ceylon from 1957 to 1961.
This panel is a charming melange of Friend’s experience and influences: the structure of Orisa Igbe shrine doors he saw while living in Nigeria from 1938 to 1940; the gold leaf grounds, disjunctive perspectives and elaborate patterns of trees and flowers suggesting Sienese painting and a blithe mixture of Christian and Greek mythology. It is a visually sumptuous and decorative tour de force.
In the top panel Adam and Eve are in the Garden of Eden, with Adam feeding an apple to the serpent. In an amusing twist, the scene and its elaborate foliage is shown as a bouquet presented by the Hand of God. The bottom panel depicts the Greek legend of Orpheus playing his lyre to tame the wild beasts. The four smaller panels are also quasi-mythological: a sleeping satyr; a naked winged female figure in a night sky, figures fleeing from an erupting volcano and an Egyptian couple seated in a papyrus boat.
Adam and Eve is one of Friend’s decorative masterpieces. It certainly merits Friend’s description of a related door which could well be used to describe the artist himself: ‘brilliant, complicated, sumptuous and slightly absurd.’