Sunday, January 22, 2012

Brett Whiteley contemplates old age


Harry Kent, Brett Whiteley contemplates old age,
pen on paper, 27x23cm

In his 40's Brett Whiteley was nicked-named Peter Pan.

He seemed to have the spirit of eternal youth. He had the playfulness of a pickled boy.

At 44 he felt that although his body was aging he still had the same spirit as when he was 14.

When he looked in a mirror he could see a body aging. He could trace the slow ravages of death.

In his early 50's he died.

He never knew old age. Just the dread.



  1. When I was young, Harry, I thought I would like to die at sixty. Sixty to me then seemed a venerable old age and a good time to go before the rot set in.

    But now I consider sixty young. And Brett Whitely died a decade earlier. He did not get further and so in some ways you might say he died forever young. He stayed a Peter Pan, but at least he faced death, one of the biggest of hurdles of all time, to my way of thinking, beyond birth that is, and one we all must face sooner or later.

    What a fantastic self portrait here. He was such a talented man. His art lives on beyond his mortal frame.

  2. Even 30 seemed old from the vantage of 17. Even now i'm thinking 80 is a ripe old age and plan to take up cigar smoking then, expecting to die of some other cause before a cancer sets in. The pleasure without the responisbility. Is that what old age is good for?

    Yes, no one leaves the room alive. That's the game we are in. The question isn't 'if', or even 'when', but mainly 'how'?

    Actually, this work is not a self portrait of Brett's. I am much flattered you thought so.

    As far as i know he never did anything like this. It's hot off my pen this morning, my signature incorporated into the work itself in the bottom right hand corner.

    So now i've added my name to the caption under the drawing for clarity - a satisfying thing to have to do! Thanks, Elizabeth, you've made my day

  3. Best of the series! Looks like it crawled out of your pen. Enough said.

  4. i like the stare, the concentration beyond the artist, reflective and captured masterfully in this tangle.... the words are strong... (we live in an ageist environment... the youth are feeling old instead of enjoying just being at any age).

  5. Hello Harry,
    This one, more than any of the others, really grabs me. Suffice to say, you have accomplished that most sought-after prize; You have made someone feel something!
    I'll admit to being a pretty insensitive dolt, so it should come as no surprise that it would take so long for me to "get it".
    Maybe it's my own aging that made this one ring so true, but whatever the reason(s), it is a brilliant work.
    Bravo, Harry!

  6. Great drawing, i love all the curly lines. I can recognize it as a Harry Kent drawing because of the intensity in his eyes. All your portraits have that intensity in the eyes.
    Even when i was young i would like to become a hundred years of age. That seemed a good age to switch roads for me. Although i work with elderly people and also notice aging of my body which sometimes is very confronting, i still have the idea to become 100. Over fifty still feeling young in my mind, that is how i feel also.
    Sweet greetz to you Harry and tnx for this post, that will keep me thinking.....

  7. I like all the portraits you've done....but I love this one most! It is so fluid..! I am sorry Brett Whiteley thought he was old. He was a youngster!

  8. Wow, la técnica empleada es genial. Muy bueno, Harry.

  9. I'm in love with this one... superb the way you done

  10. Hi Davida.

    It sure felt like it was my pen doing it and had nothing to do with me, other than that i was holding its hand.

  11. Rahina, yes, he does seem to have that middle-distance focus of the bewildered.

    I think the scribble lines may help build the impression he is feeling fuzzy around the edges. Certainly his Afro hairdo lends itself to this approach.

  12. Glad it pressed a button, Gary.

    But sorry, insensitive you are definitely not! No one could paint those wonderful nuanced portraits of yours if they weren't a very aware and empathtic artist.

    Cheers, good friend.

  13. Yes, Monica, so true. I was once told i had 'a thing' about eyes. And i do. But then, i suspect we all do!

    Sure, at one year of year we switch from eye contact to lip reading for a few months as we learn to speak, but then it's back to eye reading ever after.

    So naturally as an Expressionist portrait painter i am rivetted by the popwer of the eyes to convey emotional states and leak private intentions.

    100 sounds like a good plan. I wish you every success with it!

  14. Thanks Celeste.

    I think it's not so much that BW thought he was old. On the contrary, he felt forever young.

    But he had a thing about death in its many guises, and seeing the signs of aging in his face, despite feeling so and acting so youthful, was like tracing the slow ravages of death.

  15. Me alegro youi como, Manel. Sin duda fue divertido de hacer.

  16. Hello Harry,
    Good job, nice picture, I'm happy when I see a picture
    in the role that the artist will catch in the depths of his soul,
    It is as if the image remain within your unconscious waiting
    to be brought into the light of day, bring to life.
    I wish long life for you and for this picture!
    Big hug

  17. As i look at this one again, it just strikes me how it could be a drawing of Rembrand. There is a selfportrait of him and there's some kind of a resemblance.
    As for the eyes, i almost start every drawing with the eye.