National Library of Australia
The collection documents aspects of Counihan's career from the 1930s to 1994, and includes extensive series of correspondence (personal, business, family and posthumous), together with articles, reviews, catalogues and invitations connected with his various artistic and writing activities. Also featured in the papers are appointment diaries, published and photographic copies of Counihan's artwork (especially cartoons and caricatures), typescript memoirs, a manuscript history of Russian art, articles and speeches by or about the artist, and a few photographs and books about his life and career.
Without doubt the richest component of the collection lies in the correspondence, which dates back to the 1930s, and includes many contacts maintained by Counihan's wife until 1994. Numbering amongst correspondents are family, artists, writers, dealers, models and gallery owners, as well as purchasers of Counihan's work who became friends. In terms of content the letters reflect not only Counihan's own artistic output, but also important figures with whom he associated, and their artistic and political milieux. Counihan was a close friend of a number of prominent artists and writers such as Judah Waten and Alan Marshall, and maintained correspondence with other intellectuals including Frank Hardy, Nettie Palmer, Dymphna Cusack, H.C. Coombs and Manning Clark. Counihan's own letters are particularly revealing, with Smith describing him as someone who 'wrote constantly and self-reflectively to his family and friends, particularly in later life, and in his letters he gives highly personal accounts of his daily activities, of family life, and of his art'.
Please refer to the collection's catalogue record for the access conditions (http://nla.gov.au/nla.cat-vn68604).
Copying and publishing of unpublished manuscript material is subject to copyright restrictions. For such material, written permission to publish must be obtained from the copyright holder(s). Copying of unpublished material for research purposes is permissible 50 years after the death of the creator of the material.
Items from this collection should be cited as '[Title or description of manuscript item], Papers of Noel Counihan, National Library of Australia, [class number, box number and series and/or file number]'.
In addition to the large body of papers amassed by Noel Counihan during his lifetime, his widow Pat continued to maintain records of exhibitions, books, correspondence and articles concerning her husband's art and career after his death in 1986. The resultant collection, which bears her numerous annotations, was extensively drawn upon by Bernard Smith for his biography Noel Counihan : artist and revolutionary (1993). Following publication of his study, Smith helped coordinate the transfer of the Counihan Papers to the Library, which were received in a single consignment in 1996.
Readers can find further material which complements the Counihan Papers in other areas of the Library's special collections. Nine folders of letters from Counihan and his son Terry are located in the Marshall Papers (MS 2741, 3992), whilst other items are filed in the correspondence of Judah Waten (MS 4536), Jack Lindsay (MS 7168), Katharine Susannah Prichard (MS 6201) and Winifred Stone (MS 7043), and in the records of Art and Australia magazine (MS 4665).
In addition, recordings of four interviews made with the artist between 1961 and 1986 are held in the Oral History Collection (ORAL TRC 33, 1059 and 2022 and ORAL DeB 13). The Library's Pictorial Collection also houses portraits by Counihan of Vance Palmer (PIC R3881 Con1757) and Alan McCulloch (PIC R11453), painted in 1953 and 1978 respectively.
Please note: This finding aid may comprise or contain descriptive information provided by donors, researchers and/or volunteers.
Please note: each consignment in this collection has a separate box number sequence (i.e. there may be multiple Box 1s). Please cite the relevant Class number as well as the Box number when requesting retrieval of material from the collection.
Noel Counihan (1913-1986) was a painter, cartoonist and illustrator of national standing noted for his socialist-realist style and radical outlook, whose reputation continued to grow after his death. He travelled extensively overseas and his art has been widely exhibited in Australia, Europe and Russia, as well as receiving permanent representation in a number of Australian galleries, including the National Gallery of Australia. A communist, his passionate concern with civil rights and free speech often led to conflicts with authorities.
|1913||Born Jack Noel Counihan, Albert Park, Melbourne, 4 October|
|1930||Studied, National Gallery Art School, Melbourne|
|1930s||Worked as freelance pencil portraitist and press caricaturist|
|1931||Joined Young Communist League; founding member Workers Art Club, Melbourne|
|1932||Unemployed, supported by dole payment|
|1935-36||Working trip through regional Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland with Judah Waten, drawing portraits and caricatures|
|1938||Drew town identities in Broken Hill, NSW followed by solo exhibition where two works purchased by the Broken Hill Art Gallery; foundation member of the Contemporary Art Society, Melbourne|
|1939-40||Freelance work in New Zealand but deported for involvement in anti-conscription movement|
|1942||Secretary, Artists' Unity Congress; exhibited in Contemporary Art Society anti-fascist exhibition, Melbourne|
|1943||Spent five months recovering from tuberculosis|
|1944||Drew miners at Wonthaggi coal fields, including studies made underground|
|1945||Awarded prize in 'Australia at War' art exhibition|
|1945-49||Staff artist for The Guardian, Melbourne|
|1947||Miners series linocuts|
|1948||Lithographs of metal workers; awarded Albury Prize|
|1949-52||Travel studies and freelance artist in the United Kingdom, France, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary and The Netherlands|
|1950-52||Worked for World Trade Union Movement, London|
|1951||Exhibitions London, Warsaw|
|1952-58||Returned to Melbourne as staff artist for The Guardian|
|1956||Four month visit to Italy, USSR and London|
|1956, 1957||Twice winner of the Crouch Prize, Ballarat|
|1958||McCaughey prize winner; awarded Victorian Artists Society drawing prize|
|1959||Bronze medallist, International Graphics competition, Leipzig|
|1960||Accompanied social realist exhibition to Moscow, Leningrad|
|1961-63||Council member of Victorian Artists' Society|
|1967||Initiated The Broad Sheet with Udo Sellbach and Ian Turner; participated in anti-war exhibition, Melbourne and Adelaide|
|1969||Exhibitions of drawings and prints Poland, USSR; also visited Mexico, New York, England, Ireland, Italy, France, The Netherlands, Czechoslovakia, East Germany and India|
|1973||Semi-retrospective exhibition National Gallery of Victoria and Commonwealth Gallery, London|
|1973-78||President, Print Council of Australia|
|1974||Occupancy, Australian studio, Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris; show at Marjorie Parr Gallery, London and participated in 'Australian Artists in Britain' (Flinders bicentenary celebrations), Lincoln; also visited Yugoslavia, Greece, Istanbul|
|1978||'Noel Counihan, Faces and Figures' exhibition at Mornington Peninsula Arts Centre|
|1979||'Noel Counihan, 1944-79', Realities Gallery, Melbourne|
|1980||Visited Opaul, France|
|1981||Opaul series lithographs; suffered heart attack and stroke|
|1984-85||Visited England, France, Italy, Spain, New Zealand|
|1986||Died 5 July, Melbourne|
|1988||Work represented in 'The Face of Australia' and 'The Great Australian Art Exhibition' bicentennial art shows|
|1991||Retrospective exhibition 'Images of Working Life'|
Documents aspects of Noel Counihan's career from the 1930s to 1994. In addition to the large body of papers amassed by Counihan during his lifetime, also includes records maintained by his widow after his death.
Contained in 30 boxes, 1 fol. box, 1 map folio.
A long series of letters exchanged between Noel and Pat Counihan and their many friends and associates in Australia and overseas. Most of the correspondence is original, with a smaller portion of photocopied letters filed in some folders.
Included in the list of prominent artists, writers and intellectuals whose correspondence is represented in this series are Alan Marshall, Herbert McClintock, Lloyd Rees, Bernard Smith, Jack and Meta Lindsay and Manning Clark. The work of John Brack, Frank Hardy, John Reed, Albert Tucker, Judah Waten, Fred Williams, Marshall and Rees are amongst the many topics discussed.
Also filed here are letters written in later life by one of Counihan's early girlfriends Zélie McLeod (née Pimlott). Located with the letters of George Luke are illustrations for Marshall's stories, caricatures and discussions of Marshall by Counihan and Luke, as well as material about Luke's sculptures. The folders concerning Jim Wigley contain cuttings, catalogues and examples of Wigley's book illustrations.
Other letters relating to Counihan's business activities are filed in Series 2, and to his family affairs in Series 3. The main sequence of correspondence conducted with Counihan's associates by his wife after 1986 is contained in Series 13.
Chiefly comprising financial records and correspondence with galleries and dealers, this series also contains a detailed listing of sales of Counihan's artworks in the period 1959 to 1984. Separate files of correspondence record Counihan's involvement in Council of Adult Education classes, which he tutored in the early 1960s, and refer to the entry he prepared on footballer Roy Cazaly for the Australian dictionary of biography. Other folders document liaison with the Painters and Sculptors Association of Australia, and contact with producers of the film 'Painting the Town', a documentary about social-realist artists of the 1930s and 1940s.
Other correspondence with gallery directors and owners is interfiled in Series 1.
This series mainly comprises correspondence written from home and overseas by Noel and Pat Counihan to their children Terry and Mick, from the early 1970s, when their sons were aged in their early twenties, to 1986. Another folder contains letters sent by Noel to his wife in Melbourne during his visit to Europe in 1956. Also filed here are a number of copied birth, marriage and death certificates relating to Counihan, his mother, father and brother, and an article about Counihan's father published in the Weekly Times in 1918.
A series of pocket appointment diaries kept by Counihan in the period 1949-75, which contain brief entries written in his own hand. Also of interest is a diary/notebook used by Counihan during his visit to Poland in 1949, which contains more detailed notes on galleries visited, observations on other artists and their work, as well as some pen sketches and names and addresses of Polish contacts.
Chiefly published or copied representations of Counihan's artwork, particularly cartoons and caricatures which were printed in a range of Australian and overseas newspapers and magazines from the 1930s to 1960s. The extent of his subject matter was wide, and in addition to his political themes, Counihan also became well known for his representations of cricketers and footballers.
Also of importance in this series is a list of paintings executed by Counihan between the 1940s and 1970s, together with a summary of value of work left in his estate in 1986. In addition, other folders contain an envelope of unpublished illustrations for comic stories by Alan Marshall, a file of book covers featuring Counihan's art, illustrations of Australian wineries, calendar prints of his paintings and advertisements for Club razor blades, Vaseline hair cream and Richmond Brewery pilsener.
This series consists mainly of invitation lists for Counihan exhibitions, held from the 1950s through to 1993. Also of interest are a sequence of lists containing comprehensive details of exhibitions and reviews of Counihan's works between the years 1932 and 1985. A folder containing more detailed papers regarding Counihan's London and Russian exhibitions is filed at the end of the series.
Correspondence and other papers relating to the posthumous exhibition of Counihan's work at the Broken Hill City Art Gallery and the 1991 travelling exhibition 'Images of Working Life' are filed in Series 13.
A comprehensive run of articles, reviews, catalogues and invitations relating to Counihan and his interests, arranged by his wife into a chronological sequence of files. The relationship of each item to Counihan's career varies: some folders include written pieces by the artist, others his published illustrations, whilst a further body of material comprises reviews of his work.
In addition to his artistic output, from early in his career Counihan was a regular contributor of articles and reviews to a number of Australian and overseas newspapers and journals. As a freelance writer, he submitted numerous pieces on aspects of Australian art, as well as preparing the regular 'Art affairs' column for The Guardian, 1962-67 and the Tribune, 1967-68.
This series includes handwritten draft notes and typescript manuscripts of Counihan's many writings, including rough notes and typed memoirs of his childhood and adolescence. In the early 1960s Counihan began researching and writing a history of Russian art which resulted in a manuscript but was never published. Also featured here are proposals signed by Australian artists in 1941 for an 'Artists' Congress' to oppose fascism.
Following a renewed interest in printmaking in Australia, and the appointment of a number of international printmakers to the staff of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, the Print Council of Australia was formed in Melbourne in 1966. Counihan became a foundation member of the Council, later serving as President between 1973 and 1978. A major part of the Council's effort concentrated on the organisation and touring of print exhibitions in Australia and overseas each year.
This series contains a folder of notes and official papers documenting various PCA activities and exhibitions with which Counihan was involved in the period, 1967-82.
The Victorian Printmakers Group was formed in 1976 by an interim committee of which Counihan was a member. By the next year the Group achieved its principal aim of establishing a fully equipped print workshop for Melbourne artists. The studio opened initially in premises in Carlton, but the Group disbanded when a subsequent joint venture with the Craft Association of Victoria to develop a central craft centre failed due to factional disputes.
Filed here are a number of notes and other official papers documenting Counihan's association with the VPG. For papers concerning Counihan's activities with the Victorian Print Workshop see Series 11.
In 1981 the former Victorian Printmakers Group successfully reformed as the Victorian Print Workshop, located in the Meat Market Craft Centre in North Melbourne. Counihan was a member of the Workshop's Advisory Committee until his death, and a folder of papers associated with his official duties is filed here.
For papers relating to the Victorian Printmakers Group see Series 10.
A varied grouping of notes, clippings, writings and student theses covering different aspects of and episodes in Counihan's life, including photocopied pages from ASIO and Australian Federal Police files which were used to monitor his activities.
Amongst other material, the series contains some important notes by Pat Counihan on events on her husband's life and a description of his personal library in the early 1940s. Also of interest are papers about the self-styled 'grand tour' Counihan undertook with Judah Waten of regional Australia in 1935-36. During their travels through Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, Counihan sketched portraits and caricatures of local identities, whilst Waten acted as his manager.
In addition, a folder of notes and newspaper reports document a speech made by Counihan from an iron cage in Sydney Road, Brunswick in May 1933. The artist's plea for freedom of expression attracted large crowds, as well as numerous police who forced their way into the cage with a battering ram. Counihan was arrested and placed in remand at Pentridge Prison, but the charges against him were later quashed in court.
After Counihan's death in 1986, his wife Pat received numerous letters of condolence which are filed here with a list of correspondents. In subsequent years she continued to maintain contact with many of their former friends and associates, as well as liaising with curators about posthumous exhibitions of Counihan's work. Also of interest is a folder of correspondence with David Carter relating to research for his thesis 'A career in writing : Judah Waten and the cultural politics of a literary career'(1993).
A small amount of additional post-1986 correspondence of Pat Counihan can be found in Series 1 and 2.
A small collection of black and white photographs, mostly depicting Counihan and his artworks. In addition to the images filed here, a colour photograph of Noel and Pat Counihan, c. 1985 is located in Series 12.
Biographical and other published compendiums of Counihan and his artwork.
Comprises financial papers and taxation forms, including tax documents, 1963-1967, 1970-1971 and 1974-1975, bank statements, 1975-1983, receipts, 1953-1956, and miscellaneous bills, 1978-1979.
Contained in 3 boxes.