Born Sydney, Australia 1939, died Thirroul, New South Wales 1992


Brett Whiteley is remembered as much for his tumultuous personal life as for his extraordinary virtuosity.

After attending life drawing classes at the National Art School, East Sydney and the Julian Ashton Art School in the late 1950s, Whiteley travelled to Italy on a scholarship in 1960. He soon found success in London and was exhibited at the Whitechapel and Marlborough galleries. His position as a promising artist was cemented with the Tate Gallery’s purchase of his work, and by winning the International Prize at the International Biennale for Young Artists in Paris in 1961.

Whiteley found inspiration from a range of poets, writers and artists, including Francis Bacon, Yves Klein and Arthur Rimbaud. His subject matter included intense psychological portraits, erotic curvilinear drawings of the female nude, Sydney’s beaches and harbour, and landscapes and bright interior scenes often painted in ultramarine blue and gold.

Whiteley’s passion for Sydney Harbour is evident in many of his works, including Preliminary notes for ‘Harry’s building’ (1976) which references the construction of the controversial Seidler building west of the Harbour Bridge.

During his lifetime Whiteley travelled and exhibited throughout Europe, Asia and Australia, and experienced the New York art scene in the 1960s. In 1995 a major retrospective of his work was presented by the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Whiteley is represented in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, all state and many regional galleries, the Tate Gallery, London and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.