Simon Caterson reviews 'Brett Whiteley: Art, life and the other thing' by Ashleigh Wilson

Simon Caterson reviews 'Brett Whiteley: Art, life and the other thing' by Ashleigh Wilson

Brett Whiteley: Art, life and the other thing

by Ashleigh Wilson

Text Publishing, $49.99 hb, 464 pp, 9781925355239

Notwithstanding the fact that he died alone in a hotel room following a heroin overdose at the age of fifty-three, Brett Whiteley led what for an Australian artist in particular may be characterised as a fortunate life. As Ashleigh Wilson relates in this excellent biography, Whiteley retained the capacity to astonish, despite his misadventures.

A middle-class upbringing and education in Sydney and Bathurst provided him with a solid foundation. Crucially, Whiteley's natural talent was recognised and nurtured by his primary school art teacher, Miss Waugh. In his early adult years, Whiteley had the benefit of an indulgent employer who hired him as a commercial artist. He received major travelling awards and enjoyed the support of wise and eminent mentors and promoters in the international art world. One influential early admirer was the art critic Robert Hughes.

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Simon Caterson

Simon Caterson

Simon Caterson is a Melbourne-based freelance writer and the author of Hoax Nation: Australian Fakes and Frauds from Plato to Norma Khouri (Arcade Publications, 2010).