Talented Ballarat artist, Archibald Prize winner,  dies at 86

RENOWED Ballarat artist and Archibald Prize winner Wesley Walters will be remembered as a creative and sensitive man who left behind an extraordinary artistic legacy.

Gifted: Ballarat artist Wesley Walters died on August 19.

Gifted: Ballarat artist Wesley Walters died on August 19.

Mr Walters died on August 19, after years of ill health, with his son Reynold by his side.

He was 86 years old.

Mr Walter’s daughter Lisa was the full-time carer for her father and mother Judith, for more than seven years. 

Ms Walters said her dad was one of a kind. 

“He was this incredibly complicated, very emotional and sensitive person,” Ms Walters said. 

“He was very passionate about what he believed in. He was a great dad and he was the most generous person I know. Whatever my brother and I wanted to do, he would be behind us and support us in every way.”

Ms Walters said her dad was a perfectionist in everything he did.

“He was a very hard task-master and he could be incredibly hard on himself,” she said. 

“He was extremely talented. He could do anything. His sense of humour was pretty out there, which is something he has passed on to me. No matter what life threw at him, he was always so incredibly positive. “

Ms Walters said a strong creative streak ran in the Walters family.

Judith Walters was a renowned dressmaker and her brother had followed in her father’s footsteps and was an abstract painter and drawer and musician who was just about to undertake his PhD at the Victorian College of the Arts.

Mr Walters was born in Mildura in 1928. 

His family moved to Ballarat when he was six months old and he attended Pleasant Street State School and Ballarat High School where he excelled in sport and art.

He studied architecture at the Gordon Institute in Geelong and art at the Ballarat School of Mines before moving to Melbourne to work as a commercial artist with the George Patterson advertising agency.

By night, Mr Walters would study life drawing at the Victoria Artists’ Society and taught himself anatomy.

During his career, he painted nearly 200 portraits of leading Australians, especially academics, businessmen, artists and musicians. 

In 1979, he won the prestigious Archibald Prize for his portrait of Phillip Adams.

His friend of more than 40 years and fellow life member of the Woodlands Golf Club in Mordialloc, Edward Hassett, said he had had lunch with Mr Walters nearly every day for years.

Mr Walters recently auctioned off some of his artwork and raised more than $10,000 to go towards programs to assist junior players.

“He was unbelievably generous, kind and cheeky,” Mr Hassett said. 

“He was a champion golfer, one of the best I’ve ever seen.” 

Author David Thomas, who wrote a biography on Mr Walters in 2009, said he excelled in abstract and realist art.

“He was enormously gifted in both areas and that is extremely rare,” Mr Thomas said. 

Mr Walters’ work is exhibited in national and state galleries around Australia. 

Other works take pride of place at Federation University.

He won the Art Gallery of Ballarat’s Minnie Crouch Prize for watercolour art in 1953 and 1956. 

The gallery has three of his paintings, four drawings and two watercolours in its collection.

Gallery director Gordon Morrison said the gallery had hung Mr Walter’s renowned portrait of Dr Joe Brown in recognition of his unique contribution to Australian art.

melissa.cunningham@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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