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Brett Whiteley
pathways to figuration

Brett Whiteley Somewhere in summer 1961, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Brett Whiteley Studio Collection © Wendy Whiteley

Rarely seen paintings and works on paper from his formative years chart Brett Whiteley’s journey to figuration through abstraction.

This exhibition shows how Whiteley’s early mastery of line, tone and edge informed his life-long pursuit to represent the human figure through art.

After arriving in Italy on a travelling scholarship in 1960, Whiteley harvested his artistic inspiration from visiting the many museums, galleries and churches throughout the country. Afterwards, In London, he produced a series of abstractions with which he strutted the world stage. One of the finest of these paintings – Untitled red painting 1960 – was bought by the Tate Gallery, making Whiteley the youngest artist to enter their collection at the time.

Whiteley’s work from this period glows with the colours of Australian earth and at the same time reflects his early admiration for the painters William Scott and Arshile Gorky, whose abstract compositions reinforced his passionate interest in shapes, his daring proportions on the picture plane and a unique presentation of erotic overtones.

Bedevilled by a fear of stagnating, Whiteley moved from his early 1960s abstractions into a bathroom series, celebrating the sensuality of his wife Wendy’s body, extolling the curve not as a product of reductive geometry, or even human movement, but quite simply as the coefficient of sexual desire. Abstraction had pushed further into figuration through his sensual line.

Presenting partner
J.P. Morgan

31 Mar – Oct 2018

Fri–Sun only


Free admission made possible by J.P. Morgan

For education groups
Wed & Thu
Bookings required
Charges apply

Brett Whiteley Studio, Surry Hills