Brett Whiteley

Brett Whiteley at Raper Street studio, 1986. Photo © Gerrit Fokkema

Jon Lewis, 'At Reiby Place studio', c1980s. Photo © Jon Lewis
How to use this resource

Explore the world of Whiteley your own way

This digital resource is designed to allow you to navigate your own way through Brett Whiteley’s world. Discover content for case studies, assignments and inspirations for art-making or just reinvigorate your passion about the artist.

Through direct experiences with art and artists, we foster creative and critical thinking skills; create experimental opportunities to actively explore complex ideas in engaging ways; spark curiosity and discovery; and provide space to create, make and play.

Art sets created by teachers for teachers

Outlining approaches and ideas for the classroom, the associated Brett Whiteley art sets are designed by practising teachers currently working in the classroom. Aimed at different teaching levels, the Brett Whiteley art sets encourage experimentation across a range of creative processes for for Stage 1 to Stage 6 students. All content has been developed with reference to the NSW K–6 Creative Arts and 7–12 Visual Arts syllabus and the Creative Arts National Curriculum.

A note about WHITELEY – the documentary

The documentary explores the same themes that are within this art board, including 'self and identity’, 'landscape’, 'exploring place’, 'the figure’ and 'birds and animals’.
Brett Whiteley, 'Getting quite close' 1982, Brett Whiteley Studio Collection © Wendy Whiteley

Brett Whiteley (1939–92) was one of the greatest Australian artists of the 20th century, an intense and prolific practitioner who worked across an impressive spectrum of media. He was a draughtsman, printmaker, sculptor and writer, but ultimately flourished best at that which '... in his deepest conscience [he] most cared about: being a painter.’

'Whiteley absorbed styles, techniques and influences with an intense urgency, thirst and passion. The artists that he admired shifted and changed with his years. Through these artists he developed his own distinctive style and discovered that painting was an adventure, a risk, an opportunity to explore his inner world as he saw and felt it.’

— Barry Pearce

Hermann Landshoff, 'With Arkie at the Chelsea Hotel', c1968. Photo © Hermann Landshoff

With Arkie at the Chelsea Hotel, c1968

Beryl, Wendy and Arkie Whiteley have carried on Brett Whiteley's legacy since the artist's death in 1992. In collaboration with the NSW State Government and the Art Gallery of NSW, Arkie and Wendy undertook the enormous task of cataloguing and documenting the Whiteley collection, and founding the studio in 1995. The Brett Whiteley Foundation was established to ensure the ongoing support of the studio – something Wendy wishes to ensure continues after her death. Brett's mother Beryl established the Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship in 1999 for young Australian painters aged between 20-30 years. Wendy is incredibly generous with her time and continues to curate exhibitions, support the studio and participate in its many related programs, in particular the touring program. — Alec George, coordinator Brett Whiteley Studio, 2018

Brett Whiteley, 'Life and death (Prop)', Brett Whiteley Studio Collection © Wendy Whiteley

The life and times of Brett Whiteley

1939 Born 7 April, Sydney, Australia. Grew up at 18 Lucretia Avenue, Longueville. 1946 Won first art competition: annual RSPCA exhibition at Farmer’s Blaxland Gallery for The driver sits in the shade but what about the horse? 1948 Sent to boarding school at Scots College, Bathurst. 1954 Saw Lloyd Rees’s European paintings exhibition at Macquarie Galleries, Sydney. Briefly attended Scots College, Sydney 1954–55. 1956 Awarded first prize, Young Painters’ Section, Bathurst Show, New South Wales. Left school mid-year, and worked in Sydney for Lintas Advertising Agency in the layout and commercial art department. His mother Beryl Whiteley left Australia for London. 1956–59 Met Wendy Julius, who was attending the National Art School in East Sydney, where Whiteley and Michael Johnson occasionally drew at the life drawing class. Used the glasshouse at his home in Longueville as a studio. Sporadically attended life drawing at Julian Ashton Art School. Painted on weekends around Bathurst, Sofala, Hill End and the south coast of New South Wales. Painted at Sydney Soup Kitchen and night refuge. 1959 In November awarded Italian Government Travelling Art Scholarship for 1960, judged by Sir Russell Drysdale at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Whiteley submitted four paintings: 'Abstract Autumn', 'Dixon Street', 'July' and 'Around Bathurst' – the painting that won him the scholarship. 1960 Arrived on 25 February in Naples on board the Fairstar. Spent March to May in Rome and Florence. Had an apartment in Rome near the Spanish Steps with his mother Beryl. Brief visits to Paris and London. On 14 June met Wendy in Paris and after two weeks returned to Florence studio. Travelled throughout Italy, including to Siena and Arezzo. Haunted the Uffizi Gallery immersed in work by artists of the 14th and 15th centuries, particularly Cimabue, Duccio and Piero della Francesca. In November moved to London. Met Bryan Robertson director of Whitechapel Gallery. Included in 'Survey of recent Australian painting' at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, from which Untitled red painting was purchased by the Tate Gallery. 1962 Married Wendy Julius on 27 March at Chelsea Registry Office, London. From April to September travelled through Europe with his father, Clem, visiting Rome, Paris, Barcelona and the Hautes-Pyrénées. Clem returned to Australia (the last time Whiteley saw his father). The Whiteleys spent five months in the south of France in old farm houses at Sigean and travelled to Spain and Germany. 1963 Spent six and a half months completing 'Summer at Sigean'. Afterwards commenced the bathroom series. On 3 May Clem Whiteley died aged 55. 1964 From March to May exhibited in 'The new generation: 1964', Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, with 'Woman in a bath 5' 1963–64, 'Bather and mirror' 1964, 'Figure at the basin' 1963 and 'Sketch for large mirror painting' 1964. Daughter Arkie born on 6 November at St George’s Hospital, London. 1965 Exhibited in Australia, France, Belgium and Italy. In December returned to Australia for the summer, staying at Whale Beach, north of Sydney. 1967 Awarded Harkness Foundation Scholarship. May to June travelled in Majorca, Tangier and Madrid before sailing on the Queen Mary to New York in September. Moved into a penthouse apartment at the Chelsea Hotel. Australian group exhibition, Whitechapel Gallery, London. 1969 In July fled New York for Fiji and lived in a bure at Navutuleva, about 72km along the coast from Suva. Spent five months in Fiji. Fined £F50 in Suva for possession of a drug. Returned in November to Australia, moving to Lavender Bay, Sydney. 1970–72 Involved with The Yellow House artist’s community in Potts Point, Sydney. 1970–72 Involved with The Yellow House artist’s community in Potts Point, Sydney. 1971 From 9–18 November showed in group exhibition 'The bonsai show', Australian Galleries, Melbourne. Rented Gasworks studio in Waverton, Sydney. 1972 In February began work on 'Alchemy'. 1973 In January completed work 'Alchemy'. Exhibited 'Alchemy' at Bonython Gallery, Sydney. In June travelled to Mauritius and Kenya. 1974 ‘Moved from alcohol to more serious mind altering chemicals’, quote from interview with Philip Adams. Exhibited at The World Expo, Spokane, Washington, USA. 1975 Awarded Sir William Anglis Memorial Art Prize, Melbourne. Included in Australian painting exhibition, People’s Republic of China. Moved from Gasworks studio in Waverton to downstairs in Lavender Bay house. 1976 Archibald Prize for 'Self portrait in the studio' 1976. Sir John Sulman Prize for 'Interior with time past' 1976 (genre painting). 1977 Wynne Prize for 'The jacaranda tree (on Sydney Harbour)' 1977. March to April in London. In August stayed with Joel Elenberg at Arthur Boyd’s Italian house, Casa Paletaio, in Pisa. Travelled to Venice, Florence and Rome. 1978 Archibald Prize for 'Art, life and the other thing' 1978. Wynne Prize for 'Summer at Carcoar' 1977. Sir John Sulman Prize for 'Yellow nude' 1978. 1979 Joel Elenberg shared studio with Whiteley in Lavender Bay. 1980 June to September in Bali with Joel Elenberg and his family, Anna and Zahava, until Elenberg’s death. 1981 Moved to studio in Reiby Place, Circular Quay. November in Vanuatu. 1982 Travelled to Spain, Germany, France. 1984 Awarded Wynne Prize for 'South coast after the rain' 1984. July in London. 1985 Purchased an old t-shirt factory in Surry Hills, Sydney, and converted it into a studio. Travelled to London in May; Wendy remained in England. 1986 Travelled to India to meet Wendy in Bombay and returned to Australia together. 1987 Travelled to London with Wendy. Wendy remained in London. 1989 Divorced from Wendy. May to August in London and Morocco, spending two months in Paris in an apartment on Rue de Tournon. Travelled for five weeks in Bali, Tokyo and Kyoto with Janice Spencer. October in Byron Bay, New South Wales. 1991 Awarded Order of Australia (General Division) on June 10. 1992 Died at Thirroul, New South Wales, 15 June.


WHITELEY: The Legacy Series

This web series explores the ongoing relevance and resonance of the late Australian artist Brett Whiteley. In addition to his artworks, the artist’s archives, studio gallery, memorial travel scholarship and personal impact continue to influence and inspire audiences.

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