Brett Whiteley
_The balcony 2_ 1975
AGNSW collection

Brett Whiteley

The balcony 2


Sydney Harbour is one of the most beautiful harbours in the world. This view of it was painted by one of Australia's most celebrated artists from his house at Lavender Bay on Sydney's North Shore. At the top left you can see some of the city's most famous landmarks: the Sydney Opera House, Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney Harbour Bridge and Circular Quay.

Whiteley favoured this intense blue colour - so characteristic of Australian skies and seas - for its 'ecstasy-like effect'. Among his inspirations were his wife and muse Wendy, whose nude body appears in the lower left of this painting, and the art of Henri Matisse, one of the most innovative artists of the 20th century. The flowing lines of the work also reveal the important influence of Asian art, particularly calligraphy.

Largely a self-taught artist, Whiteley travelled widely. His last studio and home, at 2 Raper Street, Surry Hills in Sydney, is now a museum managed by the Art Gallery of NSW, which can be visited for free on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. You can also see an example of his sculpture outside, behind this Gallery - a pair of enormous matchsticks, known as Almost once (1968, 1991), which he produced with Matthew Dillon.

oil on canvas, 203.5 x 364.5 cm, purchased 1981 © Wendy Whiteley, 116.1981