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Ken Done
, 1987

by Rennie Ellis

type C photograph (sheet: 62.0 cm x 47.0 cm, image: 43.9 cm x 29.3 cm)

Ken Done AM (b. 1940) painter, studied at East Sydney Technical College before becoming an advertising graphic designer. He gave up work to paint full-time in 1980. Soon, his stylised, colourful representations of Sydney’s beaches, harbour, animals and flowers found their way onto placemats, t-shirts, bibs, swimwear, sheets, mugs and vases. By 1987, when Rennie Ellis took this photograph for Playboy, Done had an annual turnover of more than $4 million. In 1994, Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum mounted the exhibition Ken Done: the art of design, and two years later he held his first European exhibition, in Paris. A few years ago, the genial artist told interviewer George Negus that sneers at his ‘commercial’ art by critics and other artists worried him – ‘I’d be tougher than I really am if I told you that it didn’t hurt sometimes’ – but his retail business, Done Art and Design, has endured, and his paintings sell well, particularly in the UK and Japan. Done was named Australia’s Father of the Year in 1989.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 2006
© Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive
Accession number: 2006.67