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The 1970s were tumultuous for Brett Whiteley. On one hand, he was reaching new heights as an artist — in 1977, he won the Wynne and Sulman Prizes before winning them again, as well as the Archibald, in 1979. On the other hand, he was in the throes of a serious heroin addiction.
As relief, Whiteley and his wife, Wendy Whiteley, made frequent escapes to the countryside — sojourns they called “geographicals”. In the winter of 1979 they made such a trip, this time to radio host John Laws’s property in New South Wales. Excising the land was a stream prized for its rainbow trout, prosaically called Fish River, the subject and setting of this work.
‘Fish River’ is a meditative image. In contrast to his chaotic visions of city-life, Whiteley imagines a Zen garden — three boulders settled above a sparkling stream, the skies still and bright. Embodied in this work is the beauty of winter, rural life and Whiteley at fleeting peace, fame and addiction quietened.
An original mixed-media, ‘Fish River’ is highly collectable. Recognisably Whiteley, it was exhibited to high acclaim at Robin Gibson gallery in 1980. Set in the last gasps of winter before spring’s arrival, this work will enliven collections of important modern work and admirers of Whiteley. Brett WHITELEY (1939 - 1992)'The Fish River' 1979mixed media on paperImage Size: 24 x 14 cm Dimensions: 24 x 14 cm Signed: Inscribed with title and dated lower right the fish river/ July 19/79, stamped lower right with artist's monogram, bears inscription verso: Abell / Steinhoff Nov 80.Comes with Letter of ProvenanceSynthetic polymer paint, gouache and ink on paper.
Literature: Sutherland, K., Brett Whiteley: Catalogue Raisonné, Schwartz Publishing, Melbourne, 2020, cat.129.79, vol. 3, p. 608 (illus.). Condition: Very Good © Brett Whiteley / Copyright Agency 2022
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