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The widow of one of Australia’s most famous artists, Brett Whiteley, has opened up about their destructive open marriage describing a whirlwind of affairs, violence and drug use.

Wendy Whiteley, now 81, detailed the chaos of her marriage to painter and sculptor Brett Whiteley, who died alone from a heroin overdose in a Thirroul motel room 1992, in a new book.

Since his death Brett Whiteley’s reputation has grown, making him one of Australia’s most celebrated artists. Some of his works have sold for up to $6million.

The widow of one of Australia's most famous artists, Brett Whiteley, has opened up about their destructive open marriage describing a whirlwind of affairs, violence and drug use

The widow of one of Australia’s most famous artists, Brett Whiteley, has opened up about their destructive open marriage describing a whirlwind of affairs, violence and drug use

Ms Whiteley, now 81, detailed the chaos of her marriage to painter and sculptor Brett Whiteley, who died alone from a heroin overdose in a Thirroul motel room 1992, in 'A Year With Wendy Whiteley'

Ms Whiteley, now 81, detailed the chaos of her marriage to painter and sculptor Brett Whiteley, who died alone from a heroin overdose in a Thirroul motel room 1992, in ‘A Year With Wendy Whiteley’

The couple was married for 27 years, during which they were both addicted to heroin but still raised a daughter, Arkie.

She went on to be a successful actor before tragically dying of adrenal cancer aged just 37 in 2001.

Ms Whiteley claimed that during their marriage Brett was ‘possessive’, ‘jealous’ and ‘abusive’, although they shared loving stable times too, The Australian reported.

They divorced three years before he died at age 53.

He had countless affairs and told her ‘one-night stand sex means nothing’, though she was upset at the impact on other women.

Brett Whiteley (centre and closest to the camera) is pictured with 12 promising young artists at London's Whitechapel Gallery in 1964

Brett Whiteley (centre and closest to the camera) is pictured with 12 promising young artists at London’s Whitechapel Gallery in 1964

Ms Whiteley, now 81, had a long-term affair with poet and musician Michael Driscoll in the 1970s, which drove Brett into violent rages.

She claims in the book, A Year With Wendy Whiteley, that Brett wanted a threesome with Mr Driscoll, who she said introduced them to heroin.

Ms Whiteley refused the offer of a threesome and of the suggestion that they should all live together.

While the couple had an open marriage, Wendy said at times Brett was enraged by her affair with Mr Driscoll and would be ‘scary violent’.

In one incident when the couple argued about him, she fled their Lavender Bay home in her car and Brett chased in his, almost causing an accident.

In 1967, five years after they were married, the Whiteleys lived in New York and mixed with some of the 21st century's most famous musicians - Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix

In 1967, five years after they were married, the Whiteleys lived in New York and mixed with some of the 21st century’s most famous musicians – Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix

‘We had a huge row and he started getting violent. I ran out of the house. I got into my car and started driving away, and he started following me in his car. Trying to run me off the road.’ 

She claimed Whiteley didn’t want her to have a car because it allowed her to escape him, and he was ‘in a way’ trying to destroy it by causing a crash.

Ms Whiteley said that as well as the chaos, their marriage had stability and joy.

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But in relation to her ambitions, Whiteley was ‘a complete f***ing misogynist’.

Ms Whiteley claimed he was ‘furious’ when she started a fashion outlet in New York with a business partner and that their relationship would not have survived her trying to practise as an artist. 

Instead, she became his muse and she featured in many of his paintings, often naked.

In 1967, five years after they were married, the Whiteleys lived in New York and mixed with some of the 21st century’s most famous musicians – Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix.

When they returned to Sydney two years later he was considered a superstar.

The couple battled a heroin addiction together, but Ms Whiteley quit drugs in 1987 after using for 13 years. Their relationship went downhill badly.

Since his death Ms Whiteley has managed his estate and become a key figure in the Australian art scene

Since his death Ms Whiteley has managed his estate and become a key figure in the Australian art scene

She became ‘angry’ being around him and the difference between him using and her being clean caused ‘the real disintegration’ of their relationship.

He claimed his ‘heroes’ were all artistic addicts and that he had used drugs as part of his creative process since he was 17 years old.

The couple divorced in 1990 and two years later he died from an overdose.

Since his death Ms Whiteley has managed his estate and become a key figure in the Australian art scene.

She recently announced a $100million donation, with almost 2,000 of her late husband’s artworks and objects to go to the Art Gallery of NSW and the Brett Whiteley Foundation.

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A Year With Wendy Whiteley, by Ashleigh Wilson, is out on November 1. 

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