By Holly Byrnes: The Daily Telegraph

September 30, 2006 12:00

AN iconic Australian painting has been given a metrosexual makeover to flog a local brand of mens’ underwear.

Tom Roberts’ famous Shearing the Rams canvas has been reworked to feature musclebound Aussie blokes shearing sheep in just their undies.

The AussieBum campaign is set to take the 100-year-old artwork to the world next week but is sure to outrage conservative art lovers.

Designer Sean Ashby defended his new take on the traditional impressionist piece as “promoting Australia’s past and what it means to be an Australian today”.

“More of our iconic businesses and traditions like shearing are either being sold overseas or dying off,” he said.

“This way we wanted to remind people to value their heritage and buy Australian in a cheeky way.”

The National Gallery of Victoria owns the original painting – and bosses are thrilled by the latest interpretation.

“AussieBum’s campaign is really a tribute to a fabulous painting. It’s not at all surprising we find it’s popular for modern advertising campaigns like this one,” a spokeswoman for the NGV said.

AussieBum was initially knocked back by the leading local retailers in Australia, but is now one of the world’s best-selling mens’ brands – outselling Calvin Klein designer briefs in Europe and becoming hot property on internet auction site eBay.