It’s a striking image: a woman leaning over a bath, vividly painted in golds, blues and reds.
But the $1.5 million painting, the Bather and Garden, purportedly by Australian icon, Brett Whiteley, could also be a fake.
A soon-to-be-published catalogue of Whiteley’s work by Melbourne art historian Kathie Sutherland could shred value from the artwork, after failing to include the painting.
Last sold in 2006 for $1.5 million, the exclusion of the Bather and Garden in Brett Whiteley: Catalogue raisonné: 1955-1992 is endorsed by Whiteley’s former wife, Wendy Whiteley, who told the Sydney Morning Herald that the painting was not by Whiteley.
And it’s not just one painting, three other paintings that were previously the subject of a major art fraud trial, Big Blue Lavender Bay, Orange Lavender Bay and Lavender Bay through the Window are also missing from the catalogue.
Big Blue Lavender Bay sold for $2.5 million in 2007, while Orange Lavender Bay went for $1.1 million in 2009.
The buyer of Big Blue Lavender Bay never got his money back after the Supreme Court of Victoria found art dealer Peter Grant and art conservator Aman Siddique guilty of gaining financial advantage by deception, although the two were later acquitted.
Whiteley has been an easy target for forgers as his distinctive techniques and heroin addiction rendered his style vulnerable.
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