Ken Done has an extraordinary place in the hearts of Australians – we’ve all worn or decorated our homes with his artwork. His vivid, optimistic images are part of our collective consciousness and have helped define us to the world. But what do we know about the man behind the brush?
A dreamy country kid-turned-art student, Ken took off overseas for a Mad Men-esque advertising career before an epiphany at a Matisse exhibition showed him that painting was where his heart truly lay. But a return to Sydney to paint saw his art overtaken by his entrepreneurial instincts as ‘Ken Done’ became a sought-after global brand.
However there’s more to Ken Done’s story than just commercial success: the sudden loss of the profits from a lifetime’s hard work and a resultant stressful court case was closely followed by a shock cancer diagnosis. It was a dark time, but the powerful paintings that came out of this bleak period have brought him long-overdue acclaim as one of our great artists. From his studio on sparkling Sydney Harbour to the ochre tints of the outback or the luminous palette of tropical waters, Ken’s artist’s eye is ever drawn to beauty and colour. But through good times and bad, what has sustained him are the simple pleasures of life: family, home and, of course, painting.