9 Shades of Whiteley is a mini-retrospective exhibition tracing the artist's life and career from his earliest work in 1955, with Self Portrait at Sixteen, to just a few months before his death, with Port Douglas, Far North Queensland 1992.
The exhibition includes nine phases of Whiteley's art: Early Works, Abstraction, Bathroom Series, Christie and London Zoo Series, Lavender Bay, Portraits, Birds, Landscapes and Late Works. It is an astonishing body of work which displays all the dexterity, imagination and ambition of a prodigious talent.
The Italian Travelling Scholarship, awarded by Sir Russell Drysdale, was the first major prize that Whiteley won when he was just 20 years old. Three of the paintings that Whiteley submitted, Sofala 1958, July painting circa 1959 and Dixon Street 1959, are included in this exhibition. The Scholarship enabled Whiteley to travel to Europe and experience art as opposed to reproductions. His extended period overseas is represented with several works, including Woman in Bath 1964, Chimpanzee 1965, Christie 1965 and Fiji 1969.
Inspired by Matisse and his superb The Red Studio 1911, Whiteley produced Self-Portrait in the Studio 1976, which went on to win the Archibald prize, preceded by The Balcony 2 1975, where he flattened the picture plane and saturated it with ultramarine blue, shifting the horizon line beyond the edge, and allowed the viewer to experience with a kind of symphonic expansion the natural beauty of Sydney harbour, his home.
Whiteley won the Archibald Prize for portraiture twice with Self-Portrait in the Studio 1976, and two years later with his much-admired and confronting Art, Life and the Other Thing 1978, which squarely examines the problem of drug addiction and the creative process. Both works are included here.