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BRETT WHITELEY IN LONDON, 1964
'I first met Whiteley in August, 1964, in London. We had arranged to meet in an august club in St James's Street. It was a disastrously wrong rendezvous. The place is a caricature of English clubland. On all sides, one may see the inert bodies of members settling, like old houseboats on mudflats, into the leather armchairs. I arrived ten minutes late.
The hall porter met me. He looked flustered. "The secretary wants to see you Mr Hughes," he intoned. As if on cue, the secretary came hurrying down the stairs. "There is a person," he said, enunciating the noun as if with tongs, "waiting for you in the bar."
Yes, I said, that would be Mr Whiteley, a celebrated painter from Australia.
"I don't care who he is," the secretary snapped. "I want him out of here straight away."
"Just go and 'ave a look at him," the secretary went on relentlessly, his voice slipping under the emotional stress and exposing a streak of Liverpool. "We cannot permit this sort of thing in this club. Rule 27: Members and their guests must at all times be properly attired and conduct themselves with -- "
I plunged through the swing doors into the bar, a high, hushed room with pinstripe suits, glossy collars and pink, stiff faces, all swollen in disapproval. By himself, in the middle of the room, in a leather chair -- I was reminded of the instant in a Western where William S. Hart starts fingering his gun and everyone in the saloon backs along the wall -- sat Brett Whiteley. He was dressed in an old blue cotton work-coat, a pair of patched trousers with wide yellow and black stripes, a shirt with no collar and a pair of battered suede winklepickers. He had a fuzz of red hair and he hadn't shaved for two days: and this, combined with the brightness of his eye, gave him the look of a small, pugnacious hedgehog.
"Hi man," he said affably. "Hey, I had a couple of Scotches and told the barman to put them on your bill, while I was waiting. This," his gesture included the room and its occupants, "is quite a scene, dad, thought you meant a jazz club. Can we talk here?"
I mumbled something about a pub nearby. He got up. The pinstripes glared at us. "Like this coat?" Brett asked me. "I got a French railway porter to flog it to me on the way through Paris last year."
The aged hall porter opened the door into St James's Street and we passed through. It closed behind us, with a decisive thud.'
('The Shirley Temple of English Art? Brett Whiteley's splash in the Mainstream, From Robert Hughes in London' The Bulletin, 18 Dec. 1965, p.40)
THE PROPERTY OF A GENTLEMAN
The Bulletin, 18 Dec. 1965, "Brett Whiteley's London Paintings", pl. II.
London, Marlborough (Marlborough New London Gallery), Brett Whiteley, 'Christie Series Paintings and Drawings', no. 24, (illustrated in black and white), where bought by the present owner.