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Australian art

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Self portrait in the studio



Brett Whiteley

Australia, England

07 Apr 1939 - 15 Jun 1992


Similar to Brett Whiteley's other major paintings of this period, 'Self-portrait in the studio' exudes a sense of sumptuous living and the liquid presence of the harbour through what he called 'the ecstasy-like effect of Ultramarine blue'. Whiteley's tiny mirror self-portrait also reflects the influence of Eastern art in his portrayal of man as merely part of a larger landscape. However, this painting also hints at a darker side, as Wendy Whiteley explained in 1995:

... he was warning himself and other people watching. It was the cage of his interior, his addiction, the window or a glimpse of possible escape into paradise: the escape from one's psyche.

His last studio and home - 2 Raper Street, Surry Hills in Sydney - is now a museum managed by the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

This painting won the Archibald Prize in 1976 and was acquired by the Gallery in 1977.


Video 3:24

Wendy Whiteley on 'Self-portrait in the studio' (1976)

Watch on Gallery Channel

Video 33:44

Wendy Whiteley on the life and work of Brett Whiteley

Watch on Gallery Channel


Place where the work was made

Lavender Bay Sydney New South Wales Australia



Media category


Materials used

oil, collage, hair on canvas


200.5 x 259.0 cm stretcher; 210.5 x 268.5 x 5.7 cm frame

Signature & date

Signed and dated l.r., black ink "brett whiteley/ 1975-76/ ...". Signed and dated upper c. verso, black fibre-tipped pen ".../ brett whiteley/ 1975-76/ ...".


Purchased 1977


Not on display

Accession number


Archibald Prize

Winner - 1976

Artist information

Brett Whiteley

Artist profile

Works in the collection



Where the work was made
Lavender Bay

Shown in 20 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 80 publications


Jenny Aland and Max Darby (Editors), Art Connections, 'Visual design or plan of artworks', pg. 81-82, Port Melbourne, 1998, 82 (colour illus.).

Jenny Aland and Max Darby, Australian Artlook, 'A Timeline of Australian Art', pg. 26-53, Melbourne, 1997, 49 (colour illus.), 162 (colour illus.).

Barry Pearce et al., Brett Whiteley education pack, 'Self-Portraits and Other Intimacies', Sydney, 1995, (illus.). card no. 9 (verso) in education pack

Christine Bates, Making art connections: Visual arts years 7 & 8, 'Lets make an artwork: Staying in/going out', pg. 201-202, North Ryde, 2010, 202 (colour illus.).

Deborah Bogle, The Australian, 'Art Movement', pg. 19-22, Sydney, 20 Jun 1992, 19-21 (illus.). This article appears in 'The Australian Magazine' a liftout of 'The Australian' newspaper. A photograph of Alan Lloyd, head of conservation at the Art Gallery of NSW, examining a detail of Whiteley's painting also accompanies this article. This photograph was taken by Andrew Rankin.

Michaela Boland., The Weekend Australian, 'Whiteley's ex-wife ready to fight forgeries', Canberra, 06 Nov 2010-07 Nov 2010, (colour illus.).

Nancy Borlase., The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Whiteley's year', Sydney, 27 Jan 1977, (illus.). This article appeared in the `Art' section of the newspaper. A detail of Whiteley's self portrait is accompanied with a photograph of the artist.

Michael Bowden, Art-isan: studio arts for VCE units 1-4, 'Analysis of an unseen artwork', pg. 272-275, Port Melbourne, 2010, 3 (colour illus.), 16 (colour illus.).

Nicolas Brasch, The arts in Australia: Visual arts, 'Brett Whiteley', pg. 21, Port Melbourne, 2005, 21 (colour illus.).

Edmund Capon AM, OBE and Jan Meek (Editors), Portrait of a Gallery, 'Australian 20th Century art', pg. 71-89, Sydney, 1984, 73 (colour illus). The illustration in this publication is a detail of this image.

Richard Coleman., The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Doctor's theory may help self portraits', Sydney, 03 Apr 1981, (illus.). Dr. Virginia Keeney is photographed examining Whiteley's self portrait. This article appeared in 'The Arts' section, and Dr. Keeney discusses problems artists have when painting their own hands. Whiteley's self portrait is compared with Velaquez's of 1656, and Manet's of 1879.

Richard Cotter, Change and continuity; 20th Century Australian History, South Yarra, 1998, 177 (colour illus.).

Jane Fraser., The Australian, 'Tribute to Whiteley looks back with love', Sydney, 07 Jul 1992, 3 (illus.). Whiteley's daughter Arkie is photographed by Alan Pryke standing before his painting titled `Self portrait in the Studio'.

Alec George, Look, 'Whiteley's 'inner paddock', pg. 26, Sydney, Jun 2014, 26 (colour illus.).

Clare Gervasoni and Susan Paterson, Catbuster: Art, 1994. 36

Charles Green, Peripheral vision: Contemporary Australian art 1970-94, Drummoyne, 1995, 7.

Janet Hawley, Artists in conversation, Richmond, 2012, viii (colour illus.).

Laurie Hergenhan (Editor), The Australian Short Story: A Collection 1890s - 1990s, St. Lucia, 1986, cover page (colour illus.).

Leslie Hollings (Editor), The Australian, Sydney, 17 Mar 1979, (illus.). This is an advertisement for an art book titled `Brett Whiteley' by Sandra McGrath. This appeared in the `Arts' section of `The Australian Supplement'.

Leslie Hollings (Editor), The Australian, Sydney, 31 Mar 1979, (illus.). This is a repeated advertisement for an art book titled `Brett Whiteley' by Sandra McGrath. This appeared in the `Arts' section of `The Australian Supplement'.

Anna Waldmann, The Archibald Prize: an illustrated history 1921-1981, Sydney, 1981, 235 (colour illus.).

Susan Hunt, The Archibald Prize 1921-1993, Sydney, 1993, 23 (colour illus.).

Terry Ingram., The Australian financial review, 'Market may see "secret" paintings', Sydney, 14 May 1993, 7 (illus.). Terry Ingram discusses current art market, and valuation of Whiteley's work. Photograph of Whiteley's 'Self Portrait in the Studio' is taken "stored in the bowels of the Art Gallery of NSW", by Bruce Miller.

Rodney James., WARNING: Smoking has been linked to some of the most powerful images of the twentieth century, 'Come to where the flavour is, smoking, cigarettes + modernity', Mornington, 2006, (colour illus.). List of works.

Sandra Jane, Art is ... making, creating and appreciating 2, Milton, 1999, 121 (colour illus.), 235.

Barbara Konkolowicz, A different vision, Sydney, 1998.

Britt Larsson., The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Whiteley's poser', Sydney, 10 Dec 1977, 16 (illus.). This article appeared in 'The Good Weekend' pages in a section sub-titled 'The Arts'.

Clem Lloyd and Peter Sekuless, Australia's national collections, Sydney, 1980, 261 (colour illus.).

Elwyn Lynn, The Independent Monthly, 'Luscious Ornaments', pg. 34-35, Australia, Sep 1991, 34-35 (illus.).

Elwyn Lynn., The Australian, 'A life of eternal struggle'; 'Golden boy's genius worthy of adulation', Sydney, 17 Jun 1992, 1, 16 (illus.).

Ewen McDonald, AGNSW Collections, 'From Colonialism to late Modernism', pg. 7-106, Sydney, 1994, 80 (colour illus.), 81.

Sandra McGrath, Brett Whiteley, 'Lavender Bay: Optical Ecstasy', pg. 165-213, Kensington, 1979, 204 (colour illus.), 205 (colour detail illus.). Abstract: `Prizes, Rivers and More Prizes' by Sandra McGrath, pg. 204-210.

Sandra McGrath., The Australian, 'The making of an authentic genius', Sydney, 24 Jan 1977, 8 (illus.). This article appeared in the 'Arts Australian' section of 'The Australian' newspaper. The editor of this section was Geraldine Pascall.

Sandra McGrath., The Australian, 'A prize collection', Sydney, 27 Oct 1978, (illus.). This is a review of an exhibition which consists of Archibald Prize winning paintings, that was held at

Sandra McGrath, Brett Whiteley, Detail of 'Self Portrait in the Studio' on cover page of book, Pymble, 1992, cover (colour illus.).

Tina McGuffie, Mornington Peninsula leader, 'In a haze of art', pg. 3, Mornington, 18 Apr 2006, 3 (illus.). Review of 'WARNING: Smoking has been linked to some of the most powerful images of the twentieth century' exhibition, held at Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery.

Humphrey McQueen, Art Monthly Australia, 'Positions vacant', pg. 21-23, Canberra, Sep 2000, 22-23. review of 'Australian icons' exhibition

Wendy Owen., Age, 'Archibald and Sulman prizes scooped by Sydney artist; Whiteley wins the big double', Melbourne, 22 Jan 1977, 2 (illus.). This article appears in 'The Arts' section of the newspaper. This article was edited by Sally White.

Geraldine Pascall., The Australian, 'Whiteley's arts double; Judges' daring matches entries', Sydney, 22 Jan 1977, (illus.). Brett Whiteley is photographed by Robert Walker at

Geraldine Pascall., The Australian, 'All the makings of a lovely brawl', Sydney, 21 Jan 1977, (illus.). This article analyses art prizes and their judges, and this year's entries in the Archibald, Sulman, and Wynn competition.

Barry Pearce, Brett Whiteley Art & Life, 'Persona and the Painter', pg. 15-41, London, 1995, 35, 165 (colour illus.), 232. plate no. 105

Barry Pearce, Australian painters of the twentieth century, 'Brett Whiteley', pg. 232-243, Sydney, 2000, 232 (colour illus.).

Barry Pearce and Alec George, 9 Shades of Whiteley, '5: Portraits', pg. 23, Sydney, 2008, 3, 22 (colour illus.), 23.

Melissa Phegan., Daily telegraph mirror, 'The passion and pain of Brett Whiteley', Sydney, 21 Jul 1992, (illus.).

Max Prisk (Editor), The Sydney Morning Herald, 'The crucial art of living dangerously', Sydney, 17 Jun 1992, 17 (illus.). Tributes to Brett Whiteley collectively written by Stuart Purves; director of Australian Galleries, Doug Hall; director of Queensland Art Gallery, Colin Lanceley; artist, Mary Eagle and Andrew Sayers; curators of Australian Art at the Australian National Gallery, and, Paul Delprat; Principal of The Julian Ashton Art School. 'Strung between triumph, tragedy' an obituary by Barry Pearce.

Ursula Prunster, Aspects of Australian art, Sydney, 2000, (colour illus.). card no. 13: Brett Whiteley 'Self portrait in the studio' 1976

Donald Richardson, Art & Design in Australia, South Yarra, 1995, 15, 60, 80, 83, 137, 140, 145, 163, 243..

Peter Ross, Let's face it: the history of the Archibald Prize, 'Into the 1970s', pg. 63-87, Sydney, 1999, 77 (colour illus.), 135 (colour illus.).

Peter Ross, Let's face it: the history of the Archibald Prize, ‘Chapter 4: Into the 1970s’, pg. 61-85, Sydney, 2005, 76 (colour illus.), 145 (colour illus.).

Anne Ryan, Look, 'Drawn to the line', Sydney, Jan 2019-Feb 2019, 34 (colour illus.).

Andrew Sayers, To look within: self portraits in Australia, 'The artist's self-portrait in Australia', pg. 6-33, Brisbane, 2004, 22 (colour illus.), 24.

Jane Scott, Barry Pearce and Wendy Whiteley, Brett Whiteley: Connections, 'Brett Whiteley: Connections', Healesville, 2010, (colour illus.).

Sebastian Smee, The Australian, 'Smoking thrills', pg. 18-19, Sydney, 13 May 2006-14 Jun 2006, 18-19. 'Review' magazine. Review of 'WARNING: Smoking has been linked to some of the most powerful images of the twentieth century' exhibition, held at Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery.

Terry Smith, Australian cultural history, 'Populism and Privilege in Australian Painting', pg. 190-210, Cambridge, 1988, cover (illus.), 198, 209 (illus.). plate no. 9

Philip McIntosh. Whiteley discussing his paintings at home in Sydney., Age, 'Portrait of the artist as a winner', Melbourne, 25 Jan 1977, 2. Written shortly after Whiteley's Archibald & Sulman prize win in January 1977.

Jill Sykes (Editor), Look, 'What's on elsewhere', pg. 44-45, Sydney, Jun 2012, 45 (colour illus.).

Jill Sykes, Look, 'Members events', pg. 47-49, Sydney, Nov 2008, 47 (colour illus.).

Martin Terry, Masterpieces of Australian Painting, 'Brett Whiteley b.Sydney 1939', pg. 176-181, Sydney, 1984, 176, 177 (colour illus.).

Lina Tesoriero and Helga Nilson, Aspects of Arts, Marrickville, 1993, 23 (colour illus.).

The Brett Whiteley Studio, Brett Whiteley: Interiors, Sydney, 2001. List of works.

The Brett Whiteley Studio (Editor), Big blue: the painted harbour (list of works), Sydney, 1997.

Daniel Thomas., The Age, 'Desperate Beauty', Melbourne, 20 Jul 1996, 7 (illus.). Critique of Whiteley.

Anna Waldmann, Art and Australia (Vol. 20, No. 2), 'The Archibald Prize', pg. 213-236, Sydney, Summer 1982, 235 (colour illus.).

Donald Williams, In our own image: the story of Australian art, Sydney, 1995, 170, 171 (colour illus.).

Donald Williams, In our own image: the story of Australian art, Sydney, 2002, 173 (colour illus.).

Kristin Williamson., The national times: Australia's national weekly of business and affairs., 'Brett Whiteley - Portrait of a Genius', Sydney, 25 May 1980-31 May 1980, 28-32 (illus.). Robert Hughes, art critic for 'Time' magazine was quoted several times throughout this article. The illustration is a detail of Whiteley's 'Self Portrait in the Studio'.

Sue Williams, Daily telegraph mirror, 'Memories of Whiteley', subtitled 'Portrait of an artist', pg. 29-31, Sydney, 20 Jun 1992, 29-31. This is the same article that appeared in `The Saturday Mercury', titled `Whiteley gone but his great spirit lingers on', 20 June, 1992. (Bibliographic reference no. 22.)

Sue Williams., Saturday Mercury, 'Whiteley gone but his great spirit lingers on', Hobart, 20 Jun 1992, 17, 20. This articles includes an anecdote by Stuart Purves, Australian art dealer, of Whiteley and his Archibald prize winning painting. (This same article appears in 'The Daily Telegraph Mirror', 20 June, 1992.)

unknown author., The Australian, 'Under lock and key...', Sydney, 19 Jun 1992, 11. This article is associated with "Melba".

Editor Unknown (Editor), Brett Whiteley The Retrospective, This exhibition travelled to Victoria from New South Wales, Melbourne, pre 02 Jul 1996, Cover (colour illus.). Subtitled; An extraordinary life. An amazing man. An astonishing exhibition.

unknown author., The Australian, 'A buzzing, excited pitch', Sydney, 24 Jan 1977, 8.

unknown author., The West Australian, 'Controversy likely over art winner', Perth, 22 Jan 1977, (illus.). This article was written in regards to Whiteley winning both the Archibald, and Sulman prizes in 1977.

unknown author., Northern Star, 'Archibald Prize won by Sydney artist', Lismore, 22 Jan 1977.

unknown author., The Australian, 'Archibald Reflection', Sydney, 22 Jan 1977. This article looks at art reflecting society.

unknown author., The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Mirror image a winner for artist Whiteley', Sydney, 22 Jan 1977, (illus.). There are two illustrations of `Self Portrait in the Studio' in this article. One includes Australian artists John Olsen, and John Coburn examining Whiteley's Archibald prize-winning entry. At the time of print Olsen and Coburn were board members of the Art Gallery of NSW.

unknown author., The Canberra times, 'Sydney artist Brett Whiteley wins Archibald Prize', Ainslie, 22 Jan 1977, (illus.). This article is accompanied by a photograph of John Olsen looking at a section of Whiteley's prize-winning painting. John Olsen at the time of print was a board member of the Art Gallery of NSW.

unknown author., The Courier Mail, 'He won Archibald and Sulman in top art coup', Bowen Hills, 22 Jan 1977, (illus.).

unknown author., Sun news-pictorial, 'Brett wins art double', Melbourne, 22 Jan 1977, (illus.). Photograph of Brett Whiteley also appears with this article.

unknown author., Adelaide News, 'Two top art prizes to Whiteley', Adelaide, 21 Jan 1977. This article refers to Whiteley winning both the Archibald and Sulman prizes in 1977. A photograph of a youthful Brett Whiteley also accompanies this article.

Unknown (Editor), Sun-Herald, 'The canvas of chaos - Brett Whiteley interview with Sam Newman', pg. 34, Sydney, 17 Jun 1992, 34.