A Man For All Seasons

Brett Whiteley's Memories of Bathurst

After his sudden death in 1992, Brett Whiteley’s daughter Arkie remembered her artist father as a ‘generous,
sweet intuitive man’ who would go to eternity wearing his ‘funny little turned up black hat with the
frangipani brooch.’ The hat, now in the collection of the Bathurst Regional Art Gallery, was his ‘good luck hat.
He never went anywhere strange without it.’

Whitely had a particular connection to Bathurst and the landscapes of the central west. As a nine-year-old, he
boarded at Scots School in Bathurst, 300km to the west of his childhood home in Sydney. Homesick and lonely,
he loathed his time at the school but found solace in art and the landscape: ‘the time was so long, the days
were so long … but the thing I loved about the school was the feeling of being close to the earth … you feel the
seasons more at Bathurst than one does in the city.’

After leaving school to work in Sydney, Whiteley returned again and again to the seductive country around
Bathurst, painting the sensuousness of the hills and undulating curves of the roads to Hill End, Carcoar, and

In 1960 he burst into public view with an abstract painting titled Around Bathurst. Large, ambitious and
modern, it won him the prestigious Italian Travelling Scholarship when he was just 21 years old. European
travel and exposure to international art and politics took his style in new directions towards figuration and
narrative, but the seminal influence of landscape persisted in his work.

Throughout the 1970s and 80s, Whiteley channelled his feeling for atmosphere and place in intense and ecstatic
images of Sydney Harbour and Lavender Bay. In the final year of his life, possibly wearing his ‘funny little hat,’ he returned to his memories of Bathurst and its seasonal changes in Memory from school: winter poplars
(AGNSW) painting the trees that fringed the familiar road sweeping over the bare hills of a beloved landscape.