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The art and musings of Ken Done

Playful, vibrant and bold, Ken Done’s artwork is truly one-of-a-kind. In the Ken Done: Painting Australia series, Ken captures his love of the Australian landscape, from the joyful shout of Sydney and the Aussie Beach to the calm beauty of the Outback and Reef.

Scroll through some selections of Ken’s work below, carefully curated from each book and accompanied by his charming commentary.

Story by Jackie Money

SYDNEY

Sailboats on music sheets
The Wednesday Race I, 1980. Oil crayon and ink on paper. ©Ken Done

“The world-famous musician James Morrison is an old friend. He once released an album of music inspired by a number of my paintings. In one song he gave a musical notation to the way I had placed my drawings of yachts in this work, The Wednesday Race. Who could ask for more?”

– Ken Done

Book cover of Ken Done's Sydney
Cover design: Evi-O.Studio
On the cover: White Opera, yellow sky, 1998. Acrylic on canvas. ©Ken Done

BEACH

Sunbakers at the beach
Sunbakers II, 1995. Acrylic on canvas. ©Ken Done

“This work was one of a number I showed in my first exhibition in Paris. The picture of the sunbaker by the famous Australian photographer Max Dupain is one of our most revered images. I’ve made numerous paintings using the iconic form as a graphic device, always with reverence and respect.”

– Ken Done

Book cover of Ken Done's Beach
Cover design: Evi-O.Studio
On the cover: Balmoral I, 1993. Oil and acrylic on canvas. ©Ken Done

OUTBACK

Ned Kelly in a canyon
Nolan canyon, 2019. Oil on canvas. ©Ken Done

“When I look at the Outback, I often think of Sidney Nolan. One of our most influential artists, I was lucky enough to meet and talk with him a couple of times. For me, he will always be the Kelly figure looking at the landscape.”

– Ken Done

Book cover of Ken Done's Outback
Cover design: Evi-O.Studio
On the cover: Postcard from the Bungle Bungle, 2001. Acrylic on canvas. ©Ken Done

REEF

Sea creatures
Drawings of things in the sea, 1993. Oil, acrylic, oil crayon, pencil and ink on canvas.
©Ken Done

“A jelly and a fish. Then a jellyfish. Lots of things you find in the sea. This painting, now in a big Japanese collection, is fun. Some images are tight, and some I’ve played games with. Being underwater should always be fun.”

– Ken Done

Book cover of Ken Done's Reef
Cover design: Evi-O.Studio
On the cover: Zebra fish, 2013. Oil and acrylic on linen. ©Ken Done

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Cornish Family Prize for Art and Design Publishing: our shortlisted titles

Four of our books have been shortlisted for the coveted Cornish Family Prize for Art and Design Publishing.

Warm congratulations go to the creators, collaborators and contributors of Australia Modern, Step into Paradise, Harry Seidler’s Umbrella and The Light Fades but the Gods Remain.

As part of NGV’s Melbourne Art Book Fair, taking place from 13 – 15 March, this prize is a celebration of art book publishing and supports innovation in the field. We are honoured to have our books shortlisted in such an important initiative.

Read on for a glimpse into these stunning shortlisted books.

AUSTRALIA MODERN

Hannah Lewi and Philip Goad | Book design: Stuart Geddes

The essential text on Australian modernism with rich archival imagery and expert essays on how modernism has shaped Australian society.

The Sydney Opera House under construction, 1974-75. Photograph: Michael Lewi.

Capitol Theatre, Melbourne, VIC, 1921-25. Architect: The Office of Walter Burley Griffin and Peck & Kempter. Photograph: Walter Burley Griffin, 1939. Pictures Collection, State Library of Victoria, H2009.21/73.

STEP INTO PARADISE

Jenny Kee AO and Linda Jackson AO | Book design: Daniel New

The compelling stories of iconic designers Jenny Kee and Linda Jackson, creators of a bold and unashamedly Australian fashion identity.

Jenny and Linda wearing Linda’s Tutti Frutti and Love Letters outfits, cotton, Bondi, 1975. Photograph: Annie Noon, Linda Jackson archive, MAAS Collection.

Models Micki and Gerlindé wearing Jenny’s knitwear, cotton, with handpainted straw hats, Palm Beach, NSW, 1979. Photograph: Linda Jackson, Linda Jackson archive, MAAS collection.

HARRY SEIDLER’S UMBRELLA

Joe Rollo | Book design: Garry Emery

An incisive and personal collection of writings on architecture and design, offering an exciting way of looking at the built world.

Hamer Hall: Melbourne VIC. Photograph: John Gollings

Seidler House: Killara, Sydney, NSW. Photograph: Max Dupain © Penelope Seidler

THE LIGHT FADES BUT THE GODS REMAIN

Bill Henson | Book design: Daniel New

A glimpse into Henson’s brilliant mind as he ponders the passing of time.

Untitled 55 1985–86. Photography: Bill Henson

Untitled 153 1985–86. Photography: Bill Henson. Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection.