Norman and Rose Lindsay Norman was one of ten children of Dr and Mrs Charles Lindsay, of Creswick, Victoria. Remarkably, five of their progeny became artists of distinction. He is widely regarded as one of Australia’s greatest artists.
From an early age, Norman showed an outstanding ability to draw. He became the principal cartoonist for the Bulletin magazine, fought many controversies against “wowsers”, particularly defending his right to paint the nude, wrote novels and children’s books including The Magic Pudding and also made ship models and garden sculptures.
His major work was, however, the torrent of pen drawings, etchings, watercolours and oil paintings, all of which are well represented at ‘Springwood’ (the Norman Lindsay Gallery & Museum). His artwork is widely collected and many works reside within private and corporate collections. His art continues to climb in value today. In 2002, a record price was attained by his oil painting, Spring’s Innocence, which sold to the National Gallery of Victoria for $AU333,900.
Lindsay was associated with a number of poets, such as Kenneth Slessor and Hugh McCrae, influencing them in part through a philosophical system outlined in his book Creative Effort. He also illustrated the cover for the seminal Henry Lawson book, While the Billy Boils. Lindsay’s son, Jack Lindsay, emigrated to England, where he set up Fanfrolico Press, which issued works illustrated by Lindsay.
His sumptuous nudes were highly controversial, and in 1939, several were burned by irate wowsers in the United States who discovered them when the train in which they traveled caught fire. Interestingly enough, Norman had actually sent them to the United States to protect them from the impending War!
Lindsay also created a scandal when his novel Redheap was banned due to censorship laws. Many of his novels have a frankness and vitality that matches his art.
Sam Neill played a fictionalised version of Norman Lindsay in John Duigan’s movie Sirens (1994), set and filmed primarily within the Gallery grounds. James Mason and Helen Mirren starred in Age of Consent (1969), Michael Powell’s adaptation of Lindsay’s 1935 novel.