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 National Library of Australia exhibition looks at White’s life through the places he lived. It is drawn mostly from the Library’s vast collection of his papers – despite the fact that White repeatedly maintained he had destroyed them. In a reply to the Director-General of the National Library in 1977 about the acquisition of his papers, White wrote:  ‘I can’t let you have my ‘papers’ because I don’t keep any. My mss are destroyed as soon as the books are printed. I put very little into notebooks, don’t keep friends’ letters as I urge them not to keep mine, and anything unfinished when I die is to be burnt.’ In 2006, White’s literary agent Barbara Mobbs offered the NLA a rich collection of his papers, from letters to notebooks to photos – many of which are featured in the exhibition.

The exhibition not only tells the story of White in all his guises, it also provides great insight into the post-war Australian arts scene – straight from the man who was often its star attraction.

After Canberra, the exhibition goes to the State Library of NSW from 13 August to 28 October 2012.

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.