Brett Whiteley was one of the most dynamic and talented artists in the history of Australian art, an artist whose recognition had spread worldwide before his untimely death in 1992. Early in his career he established a name for himself in London, exhibiting at the Whitechapel Art Gallery and coming into contact with many British painters – Francis Bacon and David Hockney among others. His early paintings startled critics and fellow artists, but even at that point, two basic subjects were evident: the landscape and the nude, elements which became the mainstay of his oeuvre. At the root of all Whiteley’s work was a draughtsmanship of stunning virtuosity, capable of capturing all the poetic arabesque of a river in a single sweeping line of brush and ink, or the erotic curves of the human body in a few searching strokes of charcoal.
This volume presents an illuminating evaluation of Whiteley’s achievement. Works dating from the 1950s to the last years of his life, illustrated in over 180 colour plates, allow Whiteley’s career to be surveyed in its entirety. Barry Pearce, Head Curator at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, provides a comprehensive overview of Whiteley’s life and art; Bryan Robertson offers an impression of the artist’s years in London; and Wendy Whiteley, the artist’s wife and companion for over three decades, contributes an intimate portrait of the man behind the work.
Superbly illustrated and produced, Brett Whiteley: Art & Life is a fitting tribute to one of Australia’s most significant artists, a man whose outstanding work excites, amazes and impresses us no less now than it did when first created.