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To Yirrawalla



Brett Whiteley

Australia, England

07 Apr 1939 - 15 Jun 1992


'To Yirrawalla' was a tribute to the Aboriginal elder and spiritual leader of the Gunwinggu Tribe in Arnhemland. Whiteley felt a strong affinity with Yirawala upon meeting the man and viewing his bark paintings in Sydney in 1971. The minimal atmosphere of 'To Yirrawalla' conjures up a late winter scene in a paddock somewhere in the New South Wales central west. The desiccate landscape appears to barely sustain life, apart from tiny birds, insects and exotic blue vegetation. Surprisingly the stream running through the bottom portion of the the picture harbours a life-size platypus, a favourite hyrid creature of Whiteleys, perfectly adapted to its demanding environment. As well, the artist’s deft deployment of stones, a tree branch and collage all play a part in activating or heightening visual intrigue. The only hint of modernity is a bitumen roadway negotiating its way through the top left corner of the painting. The work was a precursor to such celebrated paintings as 'River at Marulan' 1976 and 'Summer at Carcoar' 1977.

Gavin Wilson in 'Rivers + Rocks: select works of Arthur Boyd & Brett Whiteley', 2001, page 14


Other Title




Media categories

Painting , Collage

Materials used

oil and mixed media on board


185.3 x 166.3 x 6.3 cm board

Signature & date

Signed and dated l.r. corner, black ink "... Brett Whiteley/ Aug-Sept/ 1972"


Purchased by the New South Wales State Government 1994, transferred to the Gallery 1998


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Brett Whiteley

Works in the collection


Shown in 12 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 7 publications


Lisa Anthony (Editor), HQ, Darlinghurst, Dec 2000, 112 (colour illus.), 115 (colour illus., detail). illustration for a short story

Janet Hawley, Good Weekend Magazine, 'Still life', pg. 18-24, Sydney, 02 Jul 1994, 22. titled 'Yirrawalla'

Bruce James, Whiteley with words, 'Whiteley with words', pg.2-4, Sydney, 2000, 8.

Lou Klepac, Affinities: Brett Whiteley & Lloyd Rees, 'Introduction', pg. 2-4, Sydney, 2001, 8.

Barry Pearce, Tangier to Byron Bay, 'Tangier to Byron Bay - Brett Whiteley's travels 1960-1992', pg. 2-3, Sydney, 1999, 4 (colour illus.). 7

Barry Pearce, Brett Whiteley Art & Life, 'Birds & landscapes', pg. 196-223, London, 1995, 216 (colour illus.), 235. plate no. 154

Gavin Wilson, Rivers + Rocks : select works of Arthur Boyd & Brett Whiteley, 'Rivers + Rocks', pg. 9-60, New South Wales, 2001, 13 (colour illus.), 14.