Escape to Wendy Whiteley’s Secret Garden |The Enchanting Wonderland You Never Knew Existed

As I stood in Wendy Whiteley’s secret garden at Lavender Bay, a suburb in Sydney, Australia, I was struck by its breathtaking beauty, surrounded by lush greenery and vibrant flowers that exuded a magical energy. Suddenly, Wendy Whiteley, the “goddess muse” of Australia’s most famous artist, appeared on her balcony overlooking the garden. Our eyes met, and I felt a strong emotional connection to the place.

Wendy Whiteley
Portrait of Wendy Whiteley at the Brett Whiteley Studio. Photo: Felicity Jenkins, AGNSW

A Love Story

Wendy Whiteley and her renowned artist husband, Brett Whiteley, made Lavender Bay their home in 1970 and lived there together for two decades. It was in this house that Brett painted many of his iconic Sydney Harbour pictures. He was inspired by the breathtaking views that surrounded him. But their love story was not without its share of sorrow. They were both deeply entrenched in a constant battle with heroin addiction.

Grief and Healing Through Gardening

In 1992, Brett tragically passed away from a drug overdose. Wendy found solace in clearing up the piles of overgrown rubbish on the large, unused railway land at the foot of her house. She worked tirelessly until she was too exhausted to think or feel. Then she would collapse into sleep, only to wake up and do it all over again the next day. This is where the Wendy Whiteley’s secret garden started to come to life.

A Journey Through Grief

Wendy’s world was shattered once again when her beloved daughter, Arkie, lost her battle with cancer at the age of thirty-seven. Just two weeks after getting married. 

Once again, Wendy poured her pain into the daily labor of tending to the plants of Wendy Whiteley’s secret garden. Her strength and resilience transformed the deserted area into a tranquil legacy, making Levander’s Bay treasure what it is today.

Wendy, Arkie and Brett Whiteley were the rock stars of the art world. They were well-known for their glamour, style, and theatricality. Photo: David Dare Parker, Source:

A Generous Donation

In 2022, Wendy announced that nearly 2000 artworks by her late husband would be divided equally between the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Brett Whiteley Foundation after her death, with her Lavender Bay home to be sold. This generous donation, valued at over $100 million, will be one of the largest in the Art Gallery’s history and among the most valuable collections donated to an Australian public art museum.

Wendy expressed her hope that the bequest would inspire young people and contemporary artists to think deeply and creatively, be inspired by art history, and travel the world. “Artists make people’s lives more interesting,” she said.

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