Brett Whitely’s widow donates $100 million to the Art Gallery of NSW.

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The Whiteleys purchased the Federation-style estate in 1974 after living there for many years and sharing it with other artists.

Views of Lavendar Bay from Wendy and Brett’s house, which they moved into in 1969, appear frequently in Brett Whiteley’s expressionist landscapes.

Mr Whiteley’s ‘Henry Armchair’, one of his ‘Lavender Bay Series’ pieces painted around this time, topped the Australian auction record when it sold for $6.136million in 2020.

As part of a gift named after Ms Whitely and the couple’s daughter Arkie, who died of cancer aged 37 in 2001, proceeds from the sale of the house will be used to preserve the Brett studio Whiteley in the Surry Hills district of Sydney.

The bequest, which Ms Whiteley named after herself and Arkie, will be used to inspire future artists, she said.

“The house, coupled with the courtyard and the studio, is a special place for me. “They all increased my ability to live a creative life,” she remarked.

“Through my legacy, I would love to do this for others.”

Brett Whiteley's oil, ink and charcoal painting 'Henri's Armchair' overlooks his Lavendar Bay home and sold for an Australian auction record of over $6million in 2020

After living there for many years and sharing the house with other artists, the Whiteleys purchased the Federation-style mansion in 1974.

Views of Lavendar Bay as seen from the house, which Wendy and Brett moved into in 1969, often feature in Brett Whiteley’s expressionist landscapes.

‘Henry’s Armchair’, one of the works painted by Mr Whiteley at this time as part of his ‘Lavender Bay’ series, broke the Australian auction record when it sold for $6.136 million in 2020.

Proceeds from the sale of the house will be used to maintain the Brett Whiteley studio in Sydney’s inner suburb of Surry Hills in a bequest named after Ms Whitely and the couple’s daughter, Arkie, who died from cancer at the age of 37 in 2001.

Ms Whiteley said the bequest, which she named after herself and Arkie, would be used to inspire future artists.

‘Home is my special place, along with the garden and the studio. All of them have broadened my chances of leading a creative life,” she said.

“That’s what I would want for others through this bequest.”

Brett Whiteley's oil, ink and charcoal painting 'Henri's Armchair' overlooks his Lavendar Bay home and sold for an Australian auction record of over $6million in 2020

Next to the house is ‘Wendy’s Secret Garden’, which was abandoned land owned by the NSW Rail Corporation which Mrs Whiteley and Arkie took on as a project in the 1990s.

For 15 years, they spent millions cleaning up the area and sculpting it along artist-inspired lines into a much-loved green space, now rented by the council.

The ashes of Mr. Whiteley and Arkie are scattered there.

Ms Whiteley will also donate to the Art Gallery of NSW, which owns the Brett Whiteley studio, its archive of papers from the couple’s life together.

Brett and Wendy Whiteley were considered the epitome of an artsy bohemian couple and first lived a globetrotting life after meeting as teenagers in 1957.

It was while living in Lavendar Bay in the 1970s that Mr Whiteley began collecting major art awards.

He won the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman awards in 1978, the only time it was done.

A young Whiteley at work in his studio in 1965. He is an internationally renowned Australian artist who has twice won the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes each.  He died in 1992, at the age of 53

In the later part of his life, Mr. Whiteley became almost as famous for his addictions to alcohol and heroin as he was for his art.

Ms Whiteley also struggled with heroin addiction, but after splitting from Mr Whiteley declared herself clean in 1988.

Mr Whiteley’s inability to kick the habit is believed to be the main reason for the couple’s divorce.

He was found dead of a heroin overdose aged 53 in a motel room north of Wollongong.

There was a legal fight over his estate between his late partner Janice Spencer and Arkie, but ultimately his daughter won the court battle for the majority of it and left it to her mother when she died.

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