Norman Lindsay ~ Uninhibited Bohemian

Day 291 of Colourisation Project – February 22

Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.

Born this day, 22 February in 1879, in Creswick, Victoria, and best known for his risqué nude paintings and the children’s classic The Magic Pudding, Norman Lindsay was one of Australia’s most gifted artists and without a doubt one of its most controversial artists.

To say Norman Lindsay was prolific as an artist is an understatement. He worked in all media – etching, pencil, charcoal, pen and ink, wash, woodcut, lithograph, watercolour and oil as well as producing many sculptures in concrete and bronze.

Photographer: Harold Cazneaux ~ Norman Lindsay 1931 ~ Colourised by Loredana Crupi

Photographer: Harold Cazneaux ~ Norman Lindsay 1931 ~ Colourised by Loredana Crupi

A household name throughout Australia in the early 20th century, his creative juices were free flowing and his energy unabating. He was known to produce a watercolour before breakfast. His day would pan out working in different media at different times; mid-morning would see him working on an etching, in the afternoon he’d be working on a concrete garden sculpture, and in the evenings he would be writing a new chapter for one of his novels.

Blurring the lines between erotica and art, Lindsay’s canvasses introduced the Australian art world to an uninhibited Hyperborean world of Rubenesque nymphs, sparking outrage in religious and moralist quarters which deemed his work pornographic and degenerate, while at the same time in official quarters, the uninhibited nature of his work was overlooked due to its high level of detail and technical accuracy.

Lindsay worked as an editorial cartoonist for The Bulletin in Sydney, where his cartoons echoed the racist and right-wing narratives of that time; the “Red Menace” and “Yellow Peril” were popular themes of the day.  Anti-semitic views spilled over into his writings; modern editions of The Magic Pudding (written and illustrated in 1918), often omit one couplet in which “you unmitigated Jew” is used as an insult. As Australian author, Shane Maloney points out in the March 2011 edition of The Monthly;

[Lindsay] provid[ed] the editorial visuals for [the Bulletin’s] race-based nationalism. Aborigines were lazy children, Jews were hook-nosed money-grubbers, Chinamen were both comical and threatening. And, when fresh cannon fodder was required during World War I, Lindsay provided the recruiters with a powerful propaganda tool in the form of virulent pro-conscription posters. Huns in pickle-sticker helmets with the faces of bloody-fanged slavering baboons.

In addition to his immense artistic output, Norman Lindsay was the author of eleven novels, including Curate in Bohemia (1913), Red heap (1930 – banned in Australia until 1958) Age of Consent (1935 – banned in Australia until 1962) and two children’s books, The Magic Pudding (1918), and The Flyaway Highway (1936). He also found time to write his autobiography, My Mask (1970), and Reminiscences: Bohemians of the Bulletin (1965).

The fifth of ten children in a very artistically gifted family, he was the brother of Percy Lindsay (1870–1952), Lionel Lindsay (1874–1961), Ruby Lindsay (1885–1919), and Daryl Lindsay (1889–1976) all well known artists in their own right. He was also father of the distinguished writer, Jack Lindsay (1900-1990).

Lindsay died on 21 November 1969 in Springwood, NSW at the age of 90.

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“A writer who presents men and women as creatures truncated below the waist is exposed as one who goes about without his trousers saying, ‘see, I have had my testicles removed.”   ~   Norman Lindsay

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One Response to Norman Lindsay ~ Uninhibited Bohemian

  1. Pingback: Harold Cazneaux – Father of Modern Australian Photography | Random Phoughts

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