painter, printmaker and draughtsman, was born in Adelaide on 25 May 1918 (acc. McCulloch; 21 May 1917 according to military records). He studied at the School of Fine Arts in North Adelaide under Millward Grey (1933-39) and was involved in the school’s journal, The Paint Pot . He also exhibited at the Royal South Australian Society of Arts while still a student, e.g. The Fisherman c.1937 (lithograph, private collection) was exhibited at the RSASA in July 1937 (ill. Carroll). In his first solo exhibition at the John Preece Gallery in 1938, Wigley showed drawings and lithographs, presumably of hunger-marchers and demonstrations – the subjects of his first drawings, according to Merewether (p.113).

Wigley moved to Melbourne soon after war was declared. There he exhibited with the Contemporary Art Society, met other artists and became close friends with Josl Bergner . Called up in 1941, he made models and maps with the Army Survey Corps for the next three years. He also continued to paint, exhibiting at the Kadimah Cultural Centre along with Bergner, O’Connor , Buzacott and Counihan and associating with the 'social realist’ group. He contributed three paintings to the Anti-Fascist Exhibition in 1942. Other works include The Unemployed and the Workers c.1940s, pencil, University of Melbourne (ill. Hanson, cat.268, and included by Rodney James in Global Arts Link’s Bluey and Curley exhibition in 2000 – as art – along with his oil painting Waiting 1946, p.c.).

Discharged in 1944, Wigley went to the Northern Territory with an old school friend, Ronald Berndt. [McCulloch states: Appointed official artist to the Elkin (sic) anthropological expedition into Central Australia after discharge from the army.] He returned with a case full of drawings, especially of Aboriginal people. Then he attended the National Gallery of Victoria School (1945-47) under the Army Rehabilitation Scheme (CRAST). In 1946 he had a show at Tye’s Gallery. He left for Paris with Bergner at the beginning of 1948, where they stayed with Bergner’s sister Ruth. He studied at the Académie Julian (1948-50) and under F. Léger. After the two had a show at Galerie Gentil Hommiere (Merewether), Wigley went to London and Bergner went to Israel (1951).

Wigley returned to Australia in 1954 [McCulloch says 1952; Concise says 1955] and again exhibited at Tye’s, this time with O’Connor and Counihan. He taught at South Melbourne Technical School. He went north again in 1956 (McCulloch says 1957), to Port Hedland, where he stayed in an Aboriginal Co-op formed by D.W. McLeod in which the inhabitants lived independently by mining and pearl-shell gathering. Again he produced a large body of sketches and watercolours, resulting in a sell-out exhibition at Melbourne’s Australian Galleries in 1959. Alan Boxer acquired Three [Aboriginal] men at night c.1958, tempera on board, in 1961, evidently from the Australian Galleries (Purves), Wigley’s usual dealers. He had paintings and drawings in an exhibition that went to Moscow in 1960.

Henceforth Wigley travelled between Port Hedland and Pilbara and Melbourne and Adelaide, working with Aborigines to set up printing facilities and design and illustrate school texts. A large retrospective was held at Melbourne’s Acland Street Galleries in 1981, including 'Aboriginal Study, Port Headland’, Overland 85 (October 1981), cover. For other exhibitions and commissions see McCulloch.

Kerr, Joan
Olivia Bolton
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