Important Australian + International Fine Art
31 August 2011


(1939 - 1992)

oil and mixed media on board

62.0 x 65.0 cm

signed, dated and inscribed lower right: Winter / Morning Sketch of Montmartre / 16/10/91 / brett whiteley
signed and inscribed verso: ‘Wandering up to / Montmartre in the rain / brett whiteley

$180,000 - 240,000
Sold for $186,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 21 - 31 August 2011, Melbourne

Australian Galleries, Sydney (label attached verso)
Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney (label attached verso)
Private collection
Sotheby's, Melbourne, 18 November 1996, lot 12
Menzies, Melbourne, 15 December 2010, lot 38
Company collection, Melbourne


Paris – The Complete 'Regard de Côté'  Series Plus Works from Other Visits 1982–1992, Australian Galleries, Melbourne, 20 July – 8 August 1992, cat. 75

Catalogue text

Paris had a special appeal for Brett Whiteley, who captured its character and beauty without ever falling victim to the visual cliché. In Wandering Up To Montmartre in the Rain 1984-91 we see Whiteley at his creative best, a visual evocation of his love of the great city. 'I love the stoniness and creaminess,' Whiteley said, 'that wonderful soiled magnolia feeling. Paris is so sensual, beautiful, flirtatious, mischievous, arrogant, orderly, so civilised.'1 While his paintings and drawings may excite notions of delicious affairs around every corner or beside the Seine, he invests its buildings and boulevards with an anthropomorphic feeling, giving personality to the streets and a beguiling feminine charm to the city. It is the city of seduction par excellence, and Whiteley's views are richly redolent. Even his paint has a sensual feel. He captures its sights and smells, often with 'larrikin humour' as in The 15 Great Dog Pisses of Paris 1989 in a private Sydney collection.2

Seen from an upstairs window, Wandering Up To Montmartre in the Rain has all the informality of a camera shot, aided by the casual mood of its title and white line framing part of the picture. The sense of the transitory moment is continued through the streaky lines of rain, of changeable weather as winter morphs into spring. Montmartre has long been a popular subject, Whiteley's painting following in the tradition of the elevated views of the great boulevards of Paris, as in Claude Monet's Le Boulevard des Capucines 1873 in the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas, and Camille Pissarro's Boulevard Montmartre 1897 in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria. While these works focus on the activities in the streets, Whiteley's scene of a wintry day shows a street almost empty except for the presence of a few cars. The absence of figures allows Whiteley to invest the architecture with the character of Paris and the Parisienne. The white-domed Basilica of Sacré Coeur at the end of rue des Saules (which has its own particular interests) is the crowning feature both of the painting and Montmartre district. It is also known for its night life and lively art community, which included in the past such names as Monet, and Whiteley's favourites, Vincent van Gogh, Amedeo Modigliani, and Pablo Picasso. While the changing seasons in art have attracted artists the world over, it is interesting to note that in 1897 Pierre Bonnard painted Montmartre in the Rain from his attic studio window. The painting is now in the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam. In 1984, the year Whiteley began this painting, he won the Wynne Prize with another landscape related to rain, The South Coast After Rain.

1. Janet Hawley, 'Brett Whiteley: The Art of the Warrior', Age, Good Weekend, Melbourne, 17 February 1990, p. 17
2. ibid.