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Brett Whiteley AO (7 April 1939 – 15 June 1992); Australian avant-garde artist. He is represented in the collections of all the large Australian galleries, and was twice winner of the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman prizes. He had many shows in his career, and lived and painted extensively in Italy, England, Fiji and the United States.
Whiteley became increasingly dependent on alcohol and also became addicted to heroin. His work output began a steep decline, although its market value continued to climb. He made several attempts to dry out and get off drugs completely, all ultimately unsuccessful. In 1989, he and Wendy, whom he had always credited as his 'muse', divorced.
In June 1991, Whiteley was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia.
...He started drawing at a very early age. While he was a teenager, he painted on weekends at Thurstan and Canberra with such works as The soup kitchen (1958)....
...While in London, Whiteley painted works in several different series: bathing, the zoo and the Christies. His paintings during these years were influenced by the modernist British art of the 60s - particularly the works of William Scott and Roger Hilton - and we...
He was the subject of an ABC television documentary called Difficult Pleasure directed by Don Featherstone in 1989, which showed him talking about many of his main works, and his recent works such as ones done on a month-long trip to Paris, one of his last overseas trips. He also showed his large T-shirt collection, and talks about his sculpture, which he said is an aspect of his work that many people do not take seriously. Difficult pleasure is how he described painting, or creating art stating, "Painting is an argument between what it looks like and what it means."
On 15 June 1992, aged 53, he was found dead from opiate overdose in a motel room in Thirroul, north of Wollongong. The coroner's verdict was 'death due to self-administered substances'.