Brett Whiteley: The London years 1960-67
During his time in London in the 1960s Brett Whiteley produced some of his best work
‘All the paintings I have made in the last
four years have been concerned one way or another with sex and the
desire to record sensual behaviour.’
Brett Whiteley, London 1964
A new Brett Whiteley exhibition, The London years, brings together 56 paintings, drawings, prints and sculptures from when he was living in London in the 1960s as a prodigious young talent in his twenties. Some of these works are from Wendy Whiteley’s collection and have not been seen before.
During this time, Whiteley produced some of his most interesting and challenging work in his career. He was the youngest artist at the time to enter the prestigious Tate Gallery’s collection at 22 years of age.
When Brett and Wendy Whiteley arrived in London at the end of 1960, they moved to working-class Ladbroke Grove into an apartment close to where the notorious murderer John Christie had killed several women, mainly prostitutes, during the 1940s and early 1950s. Posing as a doctor, Christie lured his victims on the pretext of curing their ailments with an inhalant. After gassing them, he ravished their bodies and hid them in the walls of his house.
Whiteley became preoccupied with these murders and began to examine the evil side of sexual drives – moving far from the softer ambience of his abstractions. His Christie series was first exhibited in 1965 at the Marlborough New London Gallery and some of those works are included in this new exhibition. The Christie series was also a response to his father’s sudden death in 1963 in Sydney, an event with which he would never adequately come to terms.
In addition to these controversial and dark paintings, the exhibition will include Whiteley’s early abstract paintings which made his name in London, his intimate nudes of Wendy bathing, the Bathroom series, and works from his London Zoo series – arresting portraits of the animals he saw there.
While in London, Whiteley also met the great British painter Francis Bacon, who became a significant influence on the young Whiteley. They met numerous times with Whiteley drawing Bacon in his studio. These drawings formed the basis for his 25 monoprints entitled Endlessnessism – conversations with Francis Bacon. This entire series will also be on display.
The Brett Whiteley Studio in Surry Hills was the workplace and home for Brett Whiteley from 1985 until his death in 1992. Since 1995 it has been managed by the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
From Friday 13 July 2012, to co-incide with the opening of The London years, the Brett Whiteley Studio will open to the public an extra day to include Friday, Saturday & Sundays 10am to 4pm. Free admission is made possible by J.P. Morgan, principal sponsor of the Brett Whiteley Studio.