Bathroom Blues? Let Freddie the Frog Come to the Rescue On Demand

  • Arkie by Brett Whiteley (1967) oil mixed media on canvas on board (Bendigo Art Gallery, Victoria).

Australian Avant-garde artist Brett Whiteley (born Sydney,  7 April 1939 – died 15 June 1992) is well represented in many Australian galleries and was twice winner of the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman prizes. In 1962 he married Wendy Julius and their only child; Arkie Whiteley was born in London on 6 November, 1964.

  • While in London, Whiteley painted works in several different series: including bathing, the zoo and of the murderer John Christie (who had committed murders in the area near where Whiteley was staying at Ladbroke Grove).

Many of his ideas and themes were influenced by his his experiences with alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs. Over the years, Whiteley became increasingly dependent on alcohol and became addicted to heroin. As a consequence, his work output declined, whilst his market value climbed. He made several attempts to dry out and get off drugs completely, all ultimately unsuccessful. In 1989, he and Wendy, whom he had always credited as his ‘muse’, divorced.  On 15 June 1992, aged 53, he was found dead from a heroin overdose in a motel room in Thirroul, north of Wollongong in New South Wales. The coroner’s verdict was ‘death due to self-administered substances’.

Their daughter Arkie became an Australian actress who appeared in television and films. She died from adrenal cancer on 19th December, 2001, aged 37. According to her obituary in The Times newspaper, when living with her parents at the Hotel Chelsea in New York as an infant, her babysitter was Janis Joplin.

  • Featured in the ‘Arkie’ bathing portrait is a vintage Avon product – Freddie the Frog Soap Dish  (See image 1).
  • However, if you are more interested in the navy blue bath tiles in ‘Arkie‘, you might like image 2 by Thomas Demand, entitled ‘Bathroom’ (1997) Type C photograph on transparent synthetic polymer resin (160cm x 122cm).

German sculptor and photographer, Thomas Cyrill Demand was born in 1964, and lives and works in both Berlin and Los Angeles and teaches at the University of Fine Arts, Hamburg. Demand is known for making photographs of 3D models that look like real images of rooms and other spaces,- hence this bathroom scene. He thus describes himself not as a photographer, but as a conceptual artist for whom photography is an intrinsic part of his creative process.

  • It’s not everyday one comes across a Tom, Brett or Freddie when one draws a bath but I have left you with something to toy with.
  • Perhaps ‘Rubber Duckie‘ is not always the one; even though he makes bath time fun; ‘cos Freddie the Frog I’m awfully fond of you!

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