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Norman Alfred William Lindsay was an Australian artist, sculptor, writer, editorial cartoonist, scale modeler, and boxer. He was born in Creswick, Victoria. Lindsay was the son of Anglo-Irish surgeon Robert Charles William Alexander Lindsay and Jane Elizabeth Lindsay from Creswick. The fifth of ten children, he was the brother of Percy Lindsay (1870–1952), Lionel Lindsay (1874–1961), Ruby Lindsay (1885–1919), and Daryl Lindsay (1889–1976).
Lindsay married Catherine (Kate) Agatha Parkinson, in Melbourne on 23 May 1900. Their son Jack was born in Melbourne on 20 October 1900, followed by Raymond in 1903 and Philip in 1906. They divorced in 1918. Philip died in 1958 and Raymond in 1960. In the Lindsay tradition, Jack became a prolific publisher, writer, translator and activist.
Rose Soady began modelling for Lindsay in 1920. She became his second wife, his most recognizable model, his business manager, and the printer for most of his etchings. By the time he left for London in 1909, Rose supplanted his wife and joined him there in 1910. Lindsay married Soady on 14 January 1920. Their children, Jane and Helen (Honey), were born in 1920 and 1922 respectively. Jane died in 1999. Honey remained in the U.S. after visiting with her mother to cache her father's works at the beginning of World War II, and Jane acquired the printmaking studio on the Faulconbridge property in 1949 and built a house around it.
Lindsay is widely regarded as one of Australia's greatest artists, producing a vast body of work in different media, including pen drawing, etching, watercolour, oil and sculptures in concrete and bronze.
A large body of his work is housed in his former home at Faulconbridge, New South Wales, now the Norman Lindsay Gallery and Museum, and many works reside in private and corporate collections.
His frank and sumptuous nudes were highly controversial. In 1940, Soady took sixteen crates of paintings, drawings and etchings to the U.S. to protect them from the war. Unfortunately, they were discovered when the train they were on caught fire and were impounded and subsequently burned as pornography by American officials. Soady's older brother, Lionel, remembers Lindsay's reaction: "Don't worry, I'll do more."
Lindsay's creative output was vast, his energy enormous. Several eyewitness accounts tell of his working practices in the 1920s. He would wake early and produce a watercolour before breakfast, then by mid-morning he would be in his etching studio where he would work until late afternoon. He would work on a concrete sculpture in the garden during the afternoon and in the evening write a new chapter for whatever novel he was working on at the time.
As a break, he would work on a model ship some days. He was highly inventive, melting down the lead casings of oil paint tubes to use for the figures on his model ships, made a large easel using a door, carved and decorated furniture, designed and built chairs, created garden planters, Roman columns and built his own additions to the Faulconbridge property.
In 1938, Lindsay published Age of Consent, which focused on the experience of a middle-aged painter on a trip to a rural area, who meets an adolescent girl who serves as his model, and then lover. The book, published in Britain, was banned in Australia until 1962.
In 1895, Lindsay moved to Melbourne to work on a local magazine with his older brother Lionel. His Melbourne experiences are described in his writing Rooms and Houses.
In 1901, he and Lionel joined the staff of the Sydney Bulletin, a weekly newspaper, magazine and review. His association there would last fifty years.
Lindsay wrote the children's classic The Magic Pudding published in 1918 and created a scandal when his novel Redheap (supposedly based on his hometown, Creswick) was banned due to censorship laws. Many of his novels have a frankness and vitality that matches his art.
Lindsay also worked as an editorial cartoonist, notable for often illustrating the racist and right-wing political leanings that dominated The Bulletin at that time; the "Red Menace" and "Yellow Peril" were popular themes in his cartoons. These attitudes occasionally spilled over into his other work, and modern editions of The Magic Pudding often omit one couplet in which "you unmitigated Jew" is used as an insult.
Lindsay was associated with a number of poets, such as Kenneth Slessor, Francis Webb 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.
Lindsay influenced more than a few artists, notably the illustrators Roy Krenkel and Frank Frazetta; he was also good friends with Ernest Moffitt.
Lindsay traveled to Europe in 1909, Rose followed later. In Naples he began 100 pen-and-ink illustrations for Petronius' Satyricon. Visits to the then South Kensington Museum where he made sketches of model ships in the Museum's collection stimulated a lifelong interest in ship models. The Lindsays returned to Australia in 1911.
The first major screen adaptation of Lindsay's literary works was the (1969) Anglo-Australian co-production Age of Consent; adapted from Lindsay's 1935 novel. It was the last full length feature film directed by Michael Powell, and starred James Mason and Helen Mirren. In (1994) Sam Neill played a fictionalized version of Lindsay in John Duigan's Sirens, set and filmed primarily at Lindsay's Faulconbridge home. The film is also notable as the movie debut of Australian supermodel Elle Macpherson.
?In 1972 five novels were adapted for TV as part of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Norman Lindsay festival. These were Halfway to Nowhere (adapted by Cliff Green), Redheap (adapted by Eleanor Witcombe), A Curate in Bohemia (adapted by Michael Boddy), The Cousin from Fiji (adapted by Barbara Vernon) and Dust or Polish (adapted by Peter Kenna).
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