The Life of Patrick White

The Life of Patrick White marks 100 years since the birth of Australia’s only Nobel Laureate in Literature. This exhibition explores the private man behind the books and his passionate participation in the cultural, social and political life of the nation.

Throughout his life White repeatedly said he had destroyed all his papers and told the National Library in 1977: “I can’t let you have my ‘papers’ because I don’t keep any.” This was no idle threat: he had already burnt many of his possessions.

He did not destroy them all, however, and in 2006 White’s literary agent Barbara Mobbs offered the Library a rich collection, including notebooks, correspondence, photographs and unpublished manuscripts that give fresh insights into his work, personal life and the post-war Australian arts scene. Highlights from these papers are displayed in the exhibition, which is on show at the Library in Canberra from 13 April to 8 July. Admission is free. After Canberra, the exhibition goes to the State Library of NSW from 20 August to 28 October.

This exhibition is supported by the National Collecting Institutions Touring and Outreach Program, an Australian Government program aiming to improve access to the national collections for all Australians.

Axel Poignant (1906-1986) Portrait of Patrick White in front of Sidney Nolan’s Galaxy. 1963.

Download (3.17MB zip)

“I can’t let you have my papers ...”
Letter from Patrick White to Dr G. Chandler, Director-General National Library of Australia, 1977
Manuscripts Collection
National Library of Australia

Download (6.40MB zip)

White milking the Dream of Penrith, at his farm Dogwoods 1950s
black and white print 6.2 x 8.2 cm
National Library of Australia

Download (411KB zip)

Patrick White’s study with Gethsemane, 1973
gelatin silver print 19.8 x 25.4 cm
National Library of Australia

Download (3.62MB zip)

Yang, William, 1943-
Patrick White and Manoly Lascaris, Martin Road, Sydney, 1989
gelatin silver print 34.7 x 45 cm
National Library of Australia

Download (2.61MB zip)

‘Paddy’ at Lulworth, Ruscutters Bay, c. 1918
black & white print 13 x 8.3 cm
National Library of Australia

Download (3.82MB zip)

John Wong
Protesting against the Olympic Stadium, 1972
gelatin silver print 11 x 16.4 cm
National Library of Australia

Download (4.0MB zip)

Part of the first draft of The Hanging Garden, unpublished, 1980s
Manuscripts Collection
National Library of Australia

Download (3.19MB zip)

Part of the first draft of The Hanging Garden, unpublished, 1980s
Manuscripts collection
National Library of Australia

Download (5.23MB zip)

Hennessy, Brendan.
Portrait of Patrick White, 1984
gelatin silver print 19.4 x 28.8 cm
National Library of Australia

Download (4.50MB zip)

Patrick White dressed as the Mad Hatter for a charity ball, c. 1920
gelatin silver print
University of New England and Regional Archives

Download (3.56MB zip)

Schnauzers in a basket
gelatin silver print 14 x 20 cm
National Library of Australia

Download (3.93MB zip)

Recipe for haloumi soufflé
Papers of Patrick White
National Library of Australia collection

Download (6.6MB zip)

Back to the top