Skip to main content

Shakespeare to Winehouse open 9:00am–7:00pm on Thu, Fri, Sat from 7 July

Menu

The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The Gallery’s Acknowledgement of Country, and information on culturally sensitive and restricted content and the use of historic language in the collection can be found here.

Wendy Whiteley

1993
Anne Zahalka

ilfochrome photograph on paper, edition 1/1 (image/sheet: 50.5 cm x 42.3 cm)

Wendy Whiteley OAM (b. 1941) is recognised as cultural icon, gardener and activist, who first came to prominence as the wife of renowned Australian artist Brett Whiteley. Born Wendy Susan Julius, she met Brett Whiteley in the late 1950s when they were students at the National Art School in Sydney. They married in March 1962 at the registry office in Chelsea, London, having settled there in 1961, and their daughter Arkie was born in 1964. Wendy was model and muse to her husband as he worked and exhibited across the United Kingdom, Europe and Australia. Having spent much of the 1960s and 1970s living in England and then New York, the family returned to Sydney in 1969. Initially, they rented a floor of a harbourside Federation house at Lavender Bay. In 1974, they purchased the entire premises, the views from and interiors of which subsequently featured heavily in Brett's work. In the 1980s, he bought a former t-shirt factory in Surry Hills which became his studio. By this time, both had developed addictions to drugs, particularly heroin. Though Wendy was able to overcome her addiction, Brett was not, leading to the breakdown of their marriage and eventual divorce in 1989. With Arkie's assistance, Wendy began to cultivate a garden on an unused parcel of railway land near her home, as a means of dealing with her grief following Brett's death from a heroin overdose in 1992. Her devotion to the healing and restorative capacities of the 'guerrilla garden' project intensified following Arkie's cancer diagnosis and death in 2001. Having managed Brett's Surry Hills studio as an art museum for a number of years, Whiteley ultimately initiated its transfer to the Art Gallery of New South Wales. She was the co-curator of a retrospective of Brett Whiteley's work at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 1995. Whiteley was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia in 2009; in 2015, the NSW Government granted North Sydney Council a thirty-year, renewable lease on the land on which she created her garden.

Gift of the artist 2021
© Anne Zahalka/Copyright Agency, 2022

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

Anne Zahalka (age 36 in 1993)

Wendy Whiteley OAM (age 52 in 1993)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

The cook (Michael Schmidt/architect), 1987
The cook (Michael Schmidt/architect), 1987
The cook (Michael Schmidt/architect), 1987
The cook (Michael Schmidt/architect), 1987

Hall of mirrors

Magazine article by Naomi Cass, 2007

Naomi Cass, Director of the Centre of Contemporary Photography, in conversation with Anne Zahalka.

The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance

The Gallery

Visit us, learn with us, support us or work with us! Here’s a range of information about planning your visit, our history and more!

© National Portrait Gallery 2022
King Edward Terrace, Parkes
Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia

Phone +61 2 6102 7000
Fax +61 2 6102 7001
ABN: 54 74 277 1196

The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency