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Brett Whiteley

1939 – 1992

Brett Whiteley AO, artist, displayed a brilliant talent for drawing as a Sydney private schoolboy. After studying half-heartedly at art school he travelled to Europe on a scholarship. In London he excited art dealers and fell under the influence of painters such as Francis Bacon. He won the international prize at the second Paris Biennale for Young Artists in 1961, and married his beautiful muse, Wendy Julius, the following year. Through the 1960s he exhibited around the world before returning to live on the Sydney harbourside. He began the 1970s with gentle pictures of birds, moving on to massive portraits of the poets Verlaine and Rimbaud before taking two years to paint the eighteen-panel Alchemy 1972-1973. He then turned to series of paintings of waves, interiors, the harbour, and coastal landscapes. In 1978, his annus mirabilis, he became the first artist to win the Archibald Prize for portraiture, the Wynne Prize for landscape and the Sulman Prize for genre painting all in the same year. He died of an overdose in a motel in Thirroul, New South Wales in the winter of 1992.

Updated 2018