Driving east from Kings Cross to the more sedate Eastern Suburbs, commuters pass the Painted Lady of Edgecliff, in a concrete alcove where New South Head Road meets Darling Point Road.
For more than twenty years French-born artist Bruno Dutot has maintained and tweaked his painting of “Rochelle,” a stylised figure with her back to the viewer and a cat at her feet.
Dutot, a fan of variations on a theme, has reworked his picture over 300 times. Rochelle’s dress changes colour, or transforms into a formal ball gown. She is painted with peace doves or a love heart, and different slogans, often in praise of beauty and support of peace.
Not everyone is hot for Dutot’s doodling. One morning in January 2009 the willowy woman was gone. Vandals (or art critics) had painted over her – leaving a fresh white canvas for the unperturbed artist to start afresh.
“Why someone covered it over, I don’t know,” Dutot told the Wentworth Courier. “A person might have been upset because I didn’t paint anything new for the new year.”
Dutot admits he doesn’t know what drives him to paint the lady over and over, and over, again. “I’ve never really asked myself. She is just inside me when I paint. She is my muse,” he said. “And why not a lady? She is the most beautiful thing in the universe.”