SAWER, Geoffrey, editor; COUNIHAN, Noel (1913-1986), artist
[NOEL COUNIHAN] Proletariat : organ of the Melbourne University Labour Club. Volume 1, number 2
Melbourne : Melbourne University Labour Club, July 1932. Quarto, original wrappers with linocut illustration by Noel Counihan under the pseudonym ‘N. Cunningham’ (short surface scratch at lower right, else fine), printed in colour inks, from two blocks (black and red); 28 pp, photo illustration; an exceptionally fine copy. Smith, 3.
A striking and extremely early example of the work of Melbourne social realist artist and political activist Noel Counihan, a member of the Communist Party of Australia from 1931 until his death in 1986. Robert Smith (Noel Counihan Prints 1931-1981. A catalogue raisonné) notes that Counihan made his first two linocuts (Smith 1-2) in 1931 with tools supplied by Eric Thake. They were printed at James Flett’s press. His next recognised work is the two-colour linocut designed for the cover of the second issue of the Melbourne University Labour Club magazine Proletariat (Smith, 3). According to Smith, Counihan began using the pseudonym Noel Cunningham in 1932 to “avoid victimisation in employment because of his political activities”, and extended his use of it to his art works (Smith, ibid., p.22).
The National Gallery of Australia holds a copy of this issue of Proletariat (NGA 00.250), a fact which underlines the significance of the linocut as one of Counihan’s earliest known works.