Important Fine Art + Indigenous Art
18 April 2018


(1939 – 1992)

brush and ink on paper

57.0 x 76.0 cm

dated lower right: 4 / 6 / 89
bears artist’s stamp lower right

$25,000 – 35,000
Sold for $39,040 (inc. BP) in Auction 53 - 18 April 2018, Sydney

Australian Galleries, Sydney
Private collection, Sydney,
acquired from the above in July 1992


Paris Regard de Côté, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1 March – 6 May 1990
Paris – The Complete 'Regard de Côté' Series Plus Works from Other Visits 1982 – 1992, Australian Galleries, Melbourne, 20 July – 8 August 1992, cat. 54 (label attached verso)
Brett Whiteley’s Paris, Brett Whiteley Studio, Sydney, 11 September – 28 November 1999, cat. 21


Whiteley, B., Paris Regard de Côté, Australian Galleries, Melbourne, 1990, cat. 54 (illus.)

Catalogue text

The quintessential ‘city of love’, Paris had always held special appeal for Brett Whiteley who considered her a kind of ‘mistress’, weaving her beguiling feminine charms through the myriad streets and boulevards. As he poignantly mused, ‘… I love the stoniness and creaminess, that wonderful soiled magnolia feeling. Paris is so sensual, beautiful, flirtatious, mischievous, arrogant, orderly, civilised. They call Paris a whore because she seduces you on every corner, and every street I turned, l could see another picture’.1 Significantly, Whiteley’s untiring affair with Paris began at the age of 20 when, as the recipient of the Italian Travelling Scholarship, he visited the city to explore the haunts of one of his greatest artistic mentors, Modigliani. Fascinated by the possibility that the brilliance of the past might somehow be embedded in the very fabric of the streets and buildings, the young artist had hoped he might gain, by proximity, further understanding of the inextricable link between Paris and ‘genius’. Returning to the city three decades later, Whiteley reflected that he had been too ‘obsessed with modernism and abstraction’ in his earlier years to paint the city; by contrast, ‘now, with fresh eyes, I could respond figuratively and lyrically to the one ravishing subject – Paris and her cultural heroes’.2

Setting himself the ambitious task ‘to produce one work a day for sixty days’, thus in June 1989 Whiteley embarked upon his celebrated ‘Paris ‘Regard de Côté’ series of gouaches, drawings and photographs – paying homage in particular to that district of the École de Paris that Marquet, Utrillo and Nicolas de Staël had so immortalised through their art. Although acutely aware of the vast legacy bequeathed by his artistic predecessors, Whiteley never falls victim to the visual cliché in his views of the city’s various landmarks and streetscapes. As he recognised in his text accompanying the acclaimed exhibition of the series at Australian Galleries in 1990, ‘… how to find a new vision is the challenge. What one is after is a high-octane visual poetic journalism, brief, essential and above all, fresh. This can best be achieved by drawing, and not by the heavy métier of oil paint … To revive the sketch, to Zen in and out quickly, to stalk the streets with a tiny leopard camera, to try to look at the obvious obscurely, and to introduce into each view the right amount of humour, or irony, or Dada’.3 Richly redolent and exuding sensuality, the superb ink and brush drawing offered here illustrates well how successfully Whiteley achieved his goal. Featuring the ship-shaped island of the Île de la Cité – widely considered the historical heart of Paris and home to the famous medieval cathedrals of Notre-Dame and Sainte Chapelle – the sketch betrays all the informality of a camera shot, a transitory moment in time drawn from the western end downstream with the Place Dauphine, the iconic Pont Neuf and River Seine foregrounded. Noticeably bereft of figures (aside from two tiny fishermen perched on the tip of the island), the subject here is unequivocally Paris – her architecture invested with an almost anthropomorphic quality to capture the essential character and beauty of this city he so loved.

Comprising the last major series produced by the artist before his untimely death in 1992, such works eloquently attest not only to Whiteley’s unwavering sense of discovery and engagement, but to his extraordinary ability as a draughtsman to create incandescent moments of vision; in his words, ‘… to make freshness permanent. Out of billions of seconds of futility, occasionally, sparks of the life force are immutably held forever’.4

1. Whiteley, B., quoted in Hawley, J., ‘Brett Whiteley: The Art of the Warrior’, The Age Good Weekend, Melbourne, 17 February 1990, p. 17
2. ibid.
3. Whiteley, B., ‘Preface’, Paris ‘Regard de Cote’, exhibition catalogue, Australian Galleries, Melbourne, 1990, unpaginated
4. Whiteley, B., quoted in Klepac, L., Brett Whiteley: Drawings, Beagle Press, Sydney, 2014