Sunday, 13 September 2009

Normal Lindsay

Norman Lindsay (1879-1969) is the author of The Magic Pudding, one of my all-time favourite illustrated, Australian children's books. He was an author (which is probably his best work), but was also a visual artist, sculptor, editorial cartoonist and scale modeler. Lindsay was such a creative force of freedom of expression in Australia during his time. I'm inspired both by the way in which he saw the female form and how disciplined he was with the different mediums he worked.

Another side to Lindsay (that contradicts his art work), is that he worked for the Australian Bulletin as an editorial cartoonist for over fifty years. The Bulletin (1880-2008) was a political journal which is hugely interesting to me in itself. Not only because my mother's family's printing company printed this APC owned magazine from the 1970's onwards, but also because it is essentially a historic journal of the right-wing and racist political leanings of Australia, particularly in the early 1900's (which is ... sadly... significant in the shaping of my country's identity over the century it existed).

Anyway, It kind of blows me away how this dude was drawing antisemitic cartoons for a male dominated frontier in the mornings, whilst probably spending his afternoons in studio producing empowered feminine etchings and paintings!

Ok so I'm geeking out here as you can probably tell... but looking at his Favourite Etchings book this morning made me think allot about the life of Norman Lindsay!

1 comment:

Leo Lane said...

Norman Lindsay was a product of his time. Australia was a tough place then, and people accepted the conditions. They were cheerful and open, in general, and staunchly Australian, with some contempt for the English approach to Australia, which was to regard it as an outpost of the Empire.

Norman hated the War, of 1914 -18, which had taken his young brother Reg, a tall, strapping Australian, who joined up to fight for Britain, and suffered the terrible fate of fighting, virtually, as part of the British Army. It was the last time Australian troops were put under the command of a non Australian commander.

In fact, the war was won, when the allied troops, or a large part of them, were put under an Australian commander, General John Monash. The intention was to put Monash in charge of the campaign, if he demonstrated his ability. Monash was so successful, in his trial, that the war was won. The King of England travelled to the battlefield to bestow a knighthood on Monash.

However, Norman believed that we became a Nation as the result of the terrible bloodshed of that war.

He saw himself as assimilating civilization to Australia. The Greeks and Romans were civilization. The Roman contribution was administration and building; the Greeks contributed culture, which was assimilated, and implemented, by the Romans.

He saw the Americans as the present day Romans, and believed that Australia was the present day Ancient Greece. He saw Europe as hopelessly corrupt, and so degraded in their art, that a buffoon like Picasso was considered an artist. He refused to believe that rubbish like modern “art” would ever gain a place in Australia.

While he admired America, and was offered great financial incentives to move there, he believed that the country of his birth was essential to his art, and remained in Australia.

He abhorred war, but during the Second World War, he drew cartoons for the recruitment drive for the armed forces. Payment for his work was offered, to him, by a grateful government, and he declined it.

Norman was offered a knighthood, which he also declined.

To use the word racist in relation to Norman, is inappropriate. He was a man of his time, and his statements were appropriate to that time.

Julian Ashton, the head of the art school which exists to this day, which Norman attended for the short time it took for him to absorb what was on offer there, said that while he hesitated to use the word, he considered that he could apply the term “genius” to Norman.

Norman drew cartoons for the Bulletin, for over 40 years. He found the discipline of working regularly, and to a deadline, beneficial. The arrangement was terminated by the Bulletin, for its own reasons, and not by Norman.


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