In 1940s Australia, Max Harris was a young genius poet and writer - an outspoken leader in a nascent modernist movement. He was handsome, witty, spectacularly erudite and fearless in debate.
In the conservative climate of Adelaide, his intellectual elan and progressive thinking attracted detractors and envy early in his life. As editor of a provocative literary and art magazine called Angry Penguins based at the University of Adelaide, he had attracted the interest of Melbourne lawyer, intellectual and arts patron John Reed who invited him to Melbourne to expand the publication. There, Angry Penguins embraced and was embraced by the bourgeoning energies of Australia's new modernist visual arts, that which now is known as the Heide Movement - Sidney Nolan, John Perceval, Albert Tucker, Arthur Boyd...
Reed's wife, Sunday, was earth mother to the artists, gathering and nurturing them at the Reed's farmhouse, Heide.
It was a civilized rural retreat, filled with books and paintings - and also Siamese cats, which Sunday bred.
Sunday's hospitality was strictly vegetarian - and all the guests were expected not only to contribute to the cerebral interchange but to pull their weight domestically. Sunday had been born into the wealthy Establishment Ballieu family of Melbourne but had become a crucial part of a world which was seen as very avant-garde and politically suspect.
Harris became core to the fomenting activities of this world - its social realist ideology, communist militantism, surrealism - while energetically publishing progressive Australian and overseas literature both in Angry Penguins and under the imprimateur of the Reed & Harris publishing company.
Australia's traditionalists took aggressive exception to the unconventional ideas and imagery of these pioneering modernists as they materialised through Angry Penguins.