Noel Counihan

Noel Counihan (born October 4, 1913 - Died July 5, 1986) was an Australian painter and social realist artist.

Counihan was born in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. He studied part-time under Charles Wheeler at the National Gallery Art School, Melbourne, during 1930-31, where he met the social realists Herbert McClintock and Roy Dalgarno.

In 1931 Counihan became a confirmed atheist and a member of the Communist Party of Australia and helped found the Workers Art Guild. He began printmaking, producing linocuts and lithographs for communist magazine covers and pamphlets as well as designing banners.

He participated in the Great Depression free speech fights in Brunswick, Victoria. Dozens of members of the Unemployed Workers Movement were arrested and unemployed meetings at the intersection of Phoenix street and Sydney Road, Brunswick were dispersed by police. As part of this fight, a young Counihan addressed a crowd from a locked cage on top a truck. Police had to cut him out, to the jeers of the crowd, as he continued speaking.

From 1934 Counihan worked as a cartoonist for various publications, including The Bulletin and the Melbourne Guardian 1945-9 and 1952-8. He spent extended periods in hospital with tuberculosis during the Second World War. With the encouragement of the artist Yosl Bergner, he began to paint. He developed a social realist approach, producing compassionate images of workers and their working lives.

Counihan maintained that the artist had a duty to 'gather information from the political developments of the time'.

He died in Melbourne on July 5, 1986, aged 73. The Counihan Gallery, managed by City of Moreland Council, is named in his honour. A short distance away, outside the Brunswick Mechanics Institute on Sydney Road, a Free Speech memorial was built to commemorate the free speech fights by the unemployed in 1933 and Noel Counihan's part in them.