Bonhams : Brett Whiteley (1939-1992) Hummingbird and Frangipani, 1986
Brett Whiteley (1939-1992) Hummingbird and Frangipani, 1986

This lot has been removed from the website, please contact customer services for more information

Lot 37
Brett Whiteley
(1939-1992)
Hummingbird and Frangipani, 1986

Sold for AU$ 719,800 (US$ 492,778) inc. premium
Brett Whiteley (1939-1992)
Hummingbird and Frangipani, 1986
signed lower left: 'Brett Whiteley'; housed in original Brett Lichtenstein frame (stamped verso)
oil on board
75.5 x 75.5cm (29 3/4 x 29 3/4in).

Footnotes

  • PROVENANCE
    Greenhill Galleries, Perth
    Private collection, Perth, acquired from the above in 1987

    EXHIBITED
    Brett Whiteley: Van Gogh Self Portraits, Greenhill Galleries, Perth, 1987, cat. 32 (additional to catalogue and incorrectly titled)


    In the various histories of flowers there are as many beliefs about the power of the frangipani as there are different species. Once native to India, Mexico and Central America the frangipani has become naturalised in tropical climates throughout the world and is now seen in gardens from Townsville to Tel Aviv.

    In many Hindu cultures the frangipani flower symbolises immortality – in Bali for example it is used in holy offerings and ceremonies – while in Buddhist countries such as Laos the frangipani tree is often planted in temple courtyards. Throughout Polynesia – islands such as Fiji and Tahiti – it is worn by women to mark their loyalty to their husbands. In many Muslim cultures, such as Java and Malaysia, however, the frangipani is an omen of impending bad luck. For there is a trick at the heart of this simple-looking flower: the flowers yield no nectar and are not pollinated by birds but by the sphinx moths who are attracted to them by their strong perfume, transferring pollen from flower to flower in a fruitless search for nectar.

    For Whitely the frangipani was no ordinary flower but a symbol of good fortune, worn by him as a brooch which he sometimes fixed to a little black hat that he neve r went without. 'Frangipanis have always been iconic in our family. Brett made beautiful paintings of frangipanis and wore a frangipani brooch for good luck. Frangipanis are flowers that smile.' (Janet Hawley, Wendy Whitely and the Secret Garden, Penguin Books, 2015, p.257). After the artist's death, his daughter Arkie told a journalist that she was looking through his things to find a funny little black hat with the frangi pani on the front. "It's Brett's good luck hat, he didn't like to go anywhere strange without it. He'll be cremated wearing it."

    In this work Whiteley combines the two favourite motifs in a composition that is deceptively simple. Whitely used the frangipani and the bird as early as 1970 in his major work, Portrait of Baudelaire, and both were a recurring motif in many later works. Here the five white petals of the plumeria rubra, with its pale edges and egg-yolk yellow throats, form a strong background for the buttery bird. Scale is distorted to serve the composition; the tiny bird, with its exotic tail and one glittering black eye, hovering against what we know is in fact a small flow er but here takes on the proportion of a propeller, subtly conveying a sensation of flight and movement.

    Candice Bruce
Contacts
Auction information

This auction is now finished. If you are interested in consigning in future auctions, please contact the specialist department. If you have queries about lots purchased in this auction, please contact customer services.

Buyers' Obligations

ALL BIDDERS MUST AGREE THAT THEY HAVE READ AND UNDERSTOOD BONHAMS' CONDITIONS OF SALE AND AGREE TO BE BOUND BY THEM, AND AGREE TO PAY THE BUYER'S PREMIUM AND ANY OTHER CHARGES MENTIONED IN THE NOTICE TO BIDDERS. THIS AFFECTS THE BIDDERS LEGAL RIGHTS.

If you have any complaints or questions about the Conditions of Sale, please contact your nearest customer services team.

Buyers' Premium and Charges

For all Sales categories excluding Motor Cars and Motorcycles:

Buyer's Premium Rates
22% on the Hammer Price

GST at the current rate of 10% will be added to the Buyer's Premium and charges.

Shipping Notices

For information and estimates on domestic and international shipping as well as export licenses please contact Bonhams Shipping Department.