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Percival Charles Lindsay (1870–1952)

by Bernard Smith

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Percival Lindsay, by Edward Searle, 1941

Percival Lindsay, by Edward Searle, 1941

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an23351681

LINDSAY FAMILY: Percival Charles (1870-1952), Sir Lionel Arthur (1874-1961), Norman Alfred Williams (1879-1969), Ruby (1885-1919) and Sir Ernest Daryl (1889-1976), artists and writers, were born at Creswick, Victoria, five of the ten children of Robert Charles William Alexander Lindsay (1843-1915), surgeon from Londonderry, Ireland, and his wife Jane Elizabeth (1848-1932), daughter of Rev. Thomas Williams, Wesleyan missionary. The Lindsay family, originally from Ayrshire, Scotland, had settled in Tyrone in the late seventeenth century and prospered in the linen trade. Robert, after graduating in medicine at the University of Glasgow, sailed as medical officer in the Red Rose and reached Melbourne on 16 June 1864. He began to practise at Creswick and on 18 May 1869 at Ballarat married Jane. The boys were educated at the local state school and at Creswick Grammar School, where Percy, Lionel and Norman in turn edited the Boomerang, its unofficial magazine. Their early interest in art was encouraged by their maternal grandfather who took them on regular visits to the Ballarat Fine Arts Public Gallery where Norman's imagination was fired by Solomon J. Solomon's 'Ajax and Cassandra'.

The eldest son Percival, born on 17 September 1870, early showed an interest in art, receiving encouragement from S. A. Edmonds, a local bank manager and amateur painter with whom he occasionally sketched on week-ends, and at the weekly painting class in Ballarat of Frederic S. Sheldon. Lindsay was already a competent landscape painter by the time he joined the outdoor painting class conducted by Walter Withers at Creswick in January 1893, as his 'Creswick 1892' (Ballarat Art Gallery), somewhat influenced by David Davies, indicates.

In 1895 Percy's brother Lionel encouraged him to settle in Melbourne and take classes in drawing at the National Gallery School but after a few months he went home. In 1897 he returned to Melbourne and began to draw for the illustrated press, continuing to paint, particularly around Heidelberg. On 23 March 1907 at Collingwood he married Jessie Hammond, daughter of a Creswick storekeeper. For some years he worked in the Sun Art studios in Bourke Street with Cyril Dillon.

At Lionel's suggestion he moved to Sydney in 1917 when he took over from Lionel as the principal illustrator for the New South Wales Bookstall Co., working on thirty-three of their books between 1919 and 1926, including stories by 'Steele Rudd' and Vance Palmer. A charming Bohemian who enjoyed the company of convivial friends, Percy was the least ambitious of the Lindsays and the most competent painter in the family. His best works are in the Ballarat gallery. An exhibition of his etchings was held in the Macquarie Galleries, Sydney, in March 1929. Predeceased by his wife and survived by their son, Percy Lindsay died at North Sydney on 21 September 1952 and was cremated. His artist friends at the funeral gave three cheers for the departed.

Lionel, the third son, was born on 17 October 1874. He taught himself to draw by copying illustrations from Punch and other periodicals taken in the home, becoming at an early age a great admirer of the drawings of Charles Keene. An avid reader from childhood, Lionel developed an interest in astronomy from the works of Charles Dick and, on the recommendation of his maternal grandfather, joined the acting government astronomer Pietro Baracchi in Melbourne, as a pupil-assistant. After a few months Baracchi advised him that art not science was his true métier. He returned to Creswick and took lessons in watercolour painting from Miller Marshall, an English artist.

Shortly afterwards Lionel became staff artist on the Hawklet. Its front page was devoted to drawings covering the crimes, accidents, suicides and social highlights of the preceding week. For copy Lionel frequented Melbourne's theatres and ringsides, the morgue and the racing track. He joined the National Gallery School and shared a studio with George Coates.

Norman, the fourth son, was born on 22 February 1879. Until he was about 6 his mother insisted on him remaining indoors because strenuous physical activity, as a result of a blood disorder, brought on a blistering rash. Thus confined, he taught himself to draw by copying illustrations from periodicals and by drawing about the home from life. In April 1896 Lionel began working for the Free Lance, modelled on the Sydney Bulletin. After some maternal opposition Norman joined him in Melbourne to ghost drawings for him on the Hawklet. Lionel was paid £2 a week by the Free Lance and thirty-five shillings a week by the Hawklet of which he gave Norman ten shillings for his work.

When the Free Lance failed in October the two brothers experienced a difficult time until Lionel joined the Clarion, a newspaper established by Randolph Bedford, who became his lifelong friend. With Bedford he visited the Western Australian goldfields in search of copy and advertisements; Norman became cartoonist for the Hawklet in his own right. He attended the life class at the National Gallery and, haunting the gallery, was particularly impressed by its Dürer engravings. He led a Bohemian life in rented rooms with his brother and his brothers' friends, frequenting theatres, music-halls, prize-fights and the courts in search of copy. They joined the students' club known as the Prehistoric Order of Cannibals, founded in 1893, whose members included Will Dyson, Miles Evergood, Max Meldrum, Hugh McCrae, Ernest Moffitt and Harry Weston. Daryl, his younger brother, recalled Norman about this time as 'a thin hawk-faced boy with a mobile mouth, darting blue eyes and sensitive hands'.

On Lionel's return to Melbourne he drew for the Tocsin, a radical weekly that attracted articles from Victor Daley and Bernard O'Dowd, edited by Jack Castieau, a public servant. However Lionel fell out with Castieau, who did not pay for the drawings and criticized his paintings of pirates—piracy becoming something of a craze for both Lionel and Norman.

Two friends, Castieau and Moffitt, exercised a strong influence on Norman at this time. For Castieau he executed unpaid drawings for the Tocsin and drew its first cover design which it carried for twelve months from 19 October 1897; it depicted a worker wearing a bonnet rouge and hammering a tocsin bell. Norman himself affected a red bow-tie. Moffitt's influence was more profound. During the summer of 1897-98 Lionel, Norman and Moffitt spent some months living in a gardener's cottage in the grounds of Charterisville, near Heidelberg, where other young artists also foregathered. In the neglected garden Norman drew assiduously from Nature and Moffitt introduced him to the Greek pastoral poets and the works of Frederick Sandys, the Pre-Raphaelite illustrator, and urged him to go his own independent way in art. Norman began making sets of pen-and-ink illustrations to classics that appealed to him, beginning with The Idylls of Theocritus, in line only, then turned to line and wash for The Decameron drawings, placing the figures in settings inspired by the Charterisville garden.

Both Lionel and Norman were reading widely, Rabelais and Dickens being favourites. But Gautier and George Moore were 'their spiritual guides' until Lionel read Thomas Common's translation of Nietzsche's The Antichrist and Contra Wagner after publication in 1896. Nietzsche became the leading influence in Norman's philosophy of art and life, reinforcing his rejection of Christianity and the Puritan values of his mother who he believed had constrained his childhood freedom unduly. Lionel was an ardent admirer of George Marshall-Hall and with Castieau published a burlesque on Marshall-Hall's persecution by the University of Melbourne. Lionel assisted Desbrowe Annear to paint the Greek temple required for Hall's production of Gluck's Alceste (1898).

He also worked for the Weekly Times, Clarion and the Arena. But times were hard and Lionel went to Sydney in search of work, completing a few drawings for the Daily Telegraph before moving to Brisbane where he worked briefly for a sign-painter and drew houses for Pugh's Almanac. In January 1899 Norman, with the help of Ray Parkinson, a journalist friend, and financial aid from John Elkington, established the Rambler, a weekly based on the English comic magazine, Pick-me-up, and devoted to theatre gossip, light verse and illustrated jokes. Lionel, after a difficult spell in Brisbane, joined them and wrote drama criticism, but the Rambler failed after a few issues. The untimely death of Moffitt in 1899 shocked the brothers profoundly. Norman's Arcadian symbolism and decorative use of the nude at that time is well illustrated in his fine woodcuts for A Consideration of the Art of Ernest Moffitt (1899); Lionel wrote the text with the assistance of Marshall-Hall.

After Moffitt's death the brothers' lives began to diverge. Returning to Brisbane, Lionel worked for the Review, a threepenny weekly that soon failed. Back in Melbourne he wrote book reviews and occasional verses for the Outpost, another short-lived weekly. His closest friend was Herman Kuhr, a French-horn player with whom he rented a cottage at East Melbourne. Enthralled by Marshall-Hall's production of Bizet's Carmen, and a boyhood reading of Don Quixote, he decided to learn Spanish and visit Spain. By early 1902 he had saved enough to leave. Adept at picking up a foreign language, Lindsay quickly made friends wherever he went, but kept a Smith and Wesson revolver in his pocket. From Marseilles he shipped as a deck passenger in a Spanish coastal steamer. On reaching Seville he stayed with the family of Rafael Paez, the cork-cutter of Melbourne who had taught him Spanish. This direct entry into local peasant life made it possible for him to share a studio with a local house-decorator and make drawings for a projected illustrated edition of Prosper Mérimée's Carmen—drawings both of the figure and of Moorish architecture, for which he developed a great affection.

Lionel Lindsay went on to Britain but found no publisher interested in his Carmen project. In London he met Phil May and John Longstaff and began to collect Keene drawings. Then Bedford arrived and invited him to Italy. At Florence, Lionel became engaged to Will Dyson's sister Jane Ann (Jean) who was travelling with the Bedford family.

Out of pocket, Lindsay borrowed £75 from Bedford and returned to Sydney early in 1903, where Banjo Paterson offered him a job as a cartoonist for £4 per week with the right to contribute illustrations to the Bulletin. At Woollahra on 20 November he married Jean Dyson and began to make drawings and etchings of old buildings in The Rocks area, much of which was being demolished for fear of another outbreak of the plague. After these etchings were shown in the 1907 exhibition of the Society of Artists, Sydney, a new vogue for etching began. Between 1905 and 1919 Lionel illustrated twenty-six books published by the New South Wales Bookstall Co. and was active as a contributor and reader for the Lone Hand; he was president of the Australian Painter-Etchers' Society for three years after its foundation in 1921.

In 1926 Lindsay again visited Europe, travelling extensively in Sicily and Italy before visiting Paris and London, where Colnaghi of Bond Street offered him an exhibition. Requiring more works he returned to the Continent, painting and drawing first at Walcheren and Weesp in Holland then in Spain, working in Burgos, Segovia, Avila, Guadalupe and Madrid. In the summer heat he became ill with enteritis and, though they visited Arles, Nîmes and les Baux in France, Lindsay did not recover fully until the family took a flat in Monte Carlo. Here he worked on his copperplates, making his prints from an aluminium travelling press. In April 1927 he was able to hold an exhibition at Colnaghi's of sixty-seven etchings, dry-points and wood-engravings. They included landscapes and cityscapes, churches and other buildings of Australia, Spain and Italy. The exhibition was a great success. 'Lindsay has won', Harold Wright wrote later, 'a well-deserved place among the foremost graphic artists of our time'. He joined the Chelsea Arts Club. Invited to propose the toast to etching at the Royal Academy of Arts' dinner of 1927, he took the opportunity to attack the 'malady' of modern art as a conspiracy led by Jewish art-dealers, and gained great applause. After the dinner Sir Edward Lutyens, the architect, kissing him on both cheeks, exclaimed: 'At last an honest man!'

Lindsay was back in Sydney in October but made further overseas visits, returning in October 1930 and November 1934. He continued to exhibit regularly with the Macquarie Galleries, Sydney, and the Sedon Gallery, Melbourne, and served as a trustee of the National Art Gallery of New South Wales in 1918-29 and 1934-49. He was knighted in 1941.

Lionel Lindsay's talents were both diverse and influential. As an illustrator of books by Henry Lawson and 'Steele Rudd' he captured the ethos of the 'Australian legend' better perhaps than any other artist. His sympathetic rendering of the fabric of old Sydney buildings places his work at a point of origin of the conservation movement in Australia. As an art critic, both in newspapers and art magazines, he was highly influential; with James Stuart MacDonald he established the reputation of the Heidelberg School. In books such as A Consideration of the Art of Ernest Moffitt and Conrad Martens, the Man and his Art (1920) he pioneered the publication of art monographs in Australia. His etching and his magnificent wood-engravings of birds and other animals, inspired by Thomas Bewick, have not been surpassed in Australia. In all his work there is a much firmer grip upon reality than there is in Norman's more imaginative flights. He assembled an important collection of prints which included works by Dürer, Rembrandt, Whistler and Meryon and an unrivalled collection of Keene drawings. Rose Lindsay described him as the most handsome man she had ever met and (Sir) Robert Menzies, a long-standing friend, referred to him as 'a master of divine and disordered conversation', a comment that might have been used to describe his engaging autobiography, Comedy of Life, published posthumously in 1967.

Master of a good prose style, Lindsay wrote lucidly and generously about the art he admired. But his taste did not extend beyond Post-Impressionism, and he became in his later years a virulent opponent of modernism, expressing his sense of outrage in Addled Art (1942). He did however support the award of the Archibald prize to William Dobell in 1944.

Resident at Wahroonga, Lionel Lindsay died at Hornsby on 22 May 1961 and was cremated. Predeceased by his wife, he was survived by his son and daughter. His estate was valued for probate at £75,140. He left his Keene drawings to the National Gallery of Victoria. A representative collection of his work is held by the Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery, Queensland. A portrait (1959) by William Dargie is in the Australian National Gallery, Canberra, and another (1941) by Nora Heysen is in the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

On 23 May 1900 in Melbourne Norman married Kathleen Agatha Parkinson, Ray's sister, and their son Jack was born on 20 October. A few weeks later Elkington, on a visit to Sydney, showed some of Norman's Decameron drawings to Alfred George Stephens who described them in the Bulletin as 'the finest example of pen-draughtsmanship of their kind yet produced in this country'; Jules François Archibald wrote to Norman seeking some illustrations for the paper. Julian Ashton after seeing the Decameron drawings offered to raise £300 to enable him to study in Europe; but he rejected the proposal, recording years later that intuition advised him that such a move had been 'extremely disastrous to every Australian artist who had subjected himself to the corrupting influence of European movements in art'.

In May 1901 Lindsay visited Sydney and accepted Archibald's offer of £6 a week to join the Bulletin as a staff artist providing cartoons, decorations and illustrations for jokes and stories. The association was to last, with a few breaks, for over fifty years. More than any other artist, he gave visual definition to the Bulletin's editorial policy, particularly its nationalism and racism—Aborigines invariably figured as comics, Jews as old-clothes dealers with hooked noses.

During his first three months in Sydney Norman stayed with Ashton. Then his family joined him and he rented a cottage at Northwood and a studio in Bond Street. As his career prospered his marriage deteriorated. Ashton introduced him to a beautiful and robust young model, Rose Soady, aged 16. Their relationship remained professional until Katie returned to Melbourne to be close to her family prior to the birth of her second son Raymond on 25 August 1903.

In Sydney, Lindsay's work freed itself from the decorative Art Nouveau line of his Melbourne years. A rhythmical energy emerged and he became more concerned with light and colour. The change is visible in 'Laudate O Dionysus' exhibited with the Society of Artists in September 1902. There followed a major series of drawings, 'The Scoffers' (1903), 'Pollice Verso' (1904) and 'Dionysus' (1905), in which he attacked prevailing attitudes to sex and formulated his own vitalist philosophy of the artist's role in society. Critics praised his technical achievement highly but severely criticized his subject matter. Yet his work sold well and in the years leading up to World War I he achieved a higher income than any other Australian artist.

The birth of a third son Philip at North Sydney on 30 April 1906 and the purchase of a home at Lavender Bay with help from the Bulletin did not save the marriage. Norman took to horse-riding with a group that included Rose, Paterson and (Sir) Frank Fox, assistant editor of the Bulletin. Lindsay and Fox conceived the Lone Hand (1907-21), a monthly devoted to literature and art, to which Norman contributed many drawings, stories and critical articles. In it he fought for an independent Australian culture and supported writers such as McCrae, whose first book of poems, Satyrs and Sunlight (1909), he illustrated. Successful exhibitions in Sydney and Melbourne provided sufficient funds to leave for London in October 1909 with his sister Ruby and Will Dyson, recently married. With him were over 400 drawings for a projected illustrated edition of the Memoirs of Casanova. On Norman's departure, Katie and the three boys left for Brisbane, to be closer to her sister Mary who had married Elkington.

On the voyage Lindsay read the Satyricon in the Bohn translation and on visiting Pompeii, en route, conceived the idea of illustrating Petronius. In London he found no publisher interested in the Casanova drawings but Ralph Strauss, whom he had met in Sydney earlier, agreed to publish a de luxe edition of the Satyricon. Rose joined Norman and they took a studio cottage at Hampstead where he worked on the Satyricon drawings. The Dysons had taken a cottage nearby but the sudden appearance of Rose shattered Norman's friendship with Will. Then Hugh D. McIntosh, an old friend, arrived and agreed enthusiastically to publish the Casanova drawings—in French, German, Italian and Spanish as well as English.

They went to Paris and talked to publishers, but the venture came to nothing. Lindsay first saw Post-Impressionist paintings there and was horrified—'a mob of modern Hottentots'—and became a committed opponent of modern art. At the Louvre it was Rubens he most admired but the work of Degas, Manet, Goya and Delacroix also greatly attracted him. In London he joined the Chelsea Arts Club and at the Savile Club struck up a friendship with Max Beerbohm. Although all 250 copies of the Satyricon sold in a few days, mainly to Americans, Lindsay was ill at ease in London: 'I hate the climate and I'm beginning to hate the people', he wrote to Archibald. So, on receiving an increased offer from the Bulletin (despite a somewhat better one from Harper's Magazine, New York) he decided to return. On the eve of his departure on 25 November 1910, he visited the Post-Impressionist exhibition organized by Roger Fry—a horrifying revelation. 'It smelt of the jungle'.

Lindsay's health suffered in London and soon after returning to Sydney he fell ill with pleurisy. Tuberculosis was suspected. Rose, highly practical and soon to be his efficient business-manager, found a cottage at Leura, then another at Faulconbridge, after which they bought the house at Springwood that became their permanent home. His energy returned and he began to diversify his talent. At the Society of Artists' exhibition of 1912 he exhibited some of his earliest paintings in oils and a model of Captain James Cook's Endeavour. While in London he had studied and made careful drawings of ship models in the Victoria and Albert Museum. But his most controversial work was 'Crucified Venus', depicting a tonsured monk nailing a naked woman to a tree, to the approval of a mob of exultant clerics and wowsers below. When shown in the All Australian Exhibition, Melbourne, in September 1913, it so outraged opinion that the management committee removed it. Only when Ashton threatened to withdraw all work from New South Wales was it rehung. Lindsay's diversity was extending to writing. He had been publishing stories in the Lone Hand since 1907, and in 1913 his first novel, A Curate in Bohemia, which was based on memories of his Melbourne years, was published.

At Springwood one day a week was set aside for the Bulletin's political cartoon which tended to be apocalyptic rather than amusing: the eternal forces of evil aligned against the eternal forces of good. Norman maintained that a professional cartoonist was bound to express his paper's political views, not his own. So his South African war cartoons expressed Archibald's pro-Boer attitudes when Lindsay's were, if anything, pro-British. Throughout World War I his views were at one with Bulletin policy and in 1918 he drew posters for Australia's last recruiting drive. The war cartoons invariably presented Germans as monsters of depravity, the allies as the children of light.

As a distraction from the war's horror he wrote The Magic Pudding (1918), his ever-popular tale for children. Encouraged by Lionel, he produced and exhibited his first etchings, in partnership with Rose who printed them, assembled the editions and cancelled the used plates. Early in 1917 Norman had heard that his brother Reginald had been killed on the Somme and he later received his blood-stained notebook. He turned to spiritualism and with the aid of Rose and a ouija board communicated, as he believed, not only with Reginald but such departed celebrities as Shakespeare and Apollo. This new interest led to a permanent rupture in his long friendship with Lionel. Rose's first pregnancy was almost fatal and the child stillborn and in 1919 his sister Ruby died of influenza. At Strathfield Norman and Rose were married with Presbyterian forms on 14 January 1920. His divorce from a reluctant Katie was made absolute on 28 January.

From this troubled time came a thorough reappraisal of his thoughts on art and life that were published first in Art in Australia in 1920 and more fully in Creative Effort (1924). Based on elements drawn from Plato and Nietzsche, Lindsay sought to construct for himself a systematic philosophy of art and life that denied all social and political progress. History was eternal recurrence. The creative mind, especially the masculine, existed apart from the mass mind which, essentially feminine, constantly attacked it with the aid of such lesser breeds as Jews, Asians and Africans. Modernist art and the war were but the most recent manifestations of these unending attacks upon the creative elite. Once formulated, Lindsay's views changed little.

In 1923 he became involved in another major controversy: Sydney Ure Smith and Ashton arranged a large exhibition of Australian art for exhibition at the Royal Academy, London. Stimulated by a newspaper controversy, a deputation to the minister for public instruction failed to prevent the inclusion of Lindsay's works. When shown in London they attracted large crowds, but most London critics, like their Australian colleagues, praised his technique but criticized the subject-matter. Sir William Orpen, whose work Lindsay admired, was the most damning. 'His work is bad', he wrote. 'It shows no sign of art, no technique—nothing. Ignore it'. Orpen, an Irishman, confirmed Lindsay's doubts about provincials who made their reputations in London.

After completing a brilliant degree in classics at the University of Queensland, Norman's eldest son Jack returned to Sydney in 1921 and became his father's most important disciple. A brilliant and persuasive conversationalist, Norman inspired younger writers with a feeling for classical and European traditions and a belief in gaiety as a vital element in all art. The poets Robert FitzGerald, Kenneth Slessor and Douglas Stewart acknowledged his influence—Stewart indeed eventually wrote of Lindsay as 'the fountain-head of Australian culture in our time'. Jack and Norman established a literary periodical, Vision (1923-24), which, though it lasted for only four issues, introduced a new generation of poets. Norman illustrated Slessor's poems, Thief of the Moon (1924) and Earth-Visitors (1926), and those of his son Jack: Fauns and Ladies (1923) and The Passionate Neatherd (1926). Norman saw the possibility of a renascence in art that might spread from Australia to the rest of the world. So he lavished extravagant praise not only on his new circle of poets but also on the paintings of Elioth Gruner and the musical compositions of Adolphe Beutler, and he supported the establishment of the Fanfrolico Press in London to bring his work and ideas and those of Jack and their circle to an international audience. John Kirtley and Jack, proceeding to London in 1926, set it up at Bloomsbury. There until its demise in 1930 it published de luxe editions of Jack's translations from the classics, illustrated by Norman, as well as work by Percy Stephensen, Slessor, Philip Lindsay and others.

Norman worked prolifically both as a writer and artist throughout the 1920s, producing short stories and novels, pen drawings, etchings and dry-points, watercolours and ship-models, showing his work regularly in the annual exhibitions of the Society of Artists and the Australian Water-Colour Institute, or in special exhibitions. But officialdom continued to harass him. In April 1930 Faber, London, published his novel Redheap, based on life at Creswick during his boyhood. In May the government prohibited the book entering Australia—16,000 copies had to be shipped back to London. The ban remained until the late 1950s, although the book was readily available in England, and in the United States of America under the title Every Mother's Son (1930). An Australian edition was not published until 1959.

Disgusted, Lindsay decided to leave the country—at least temporarily. In July 1931 he sailed with Rose for New York where he found himself widely known because of the success of Every mother's son. But the Depression had hit and the planned exhibition of his work did not take place. Instead he completed a novel, published in 1932 as Mr. Gresham and Olympus in America and as Miracles by Arrangement in England. In January 1932 they left for London where he failed to interest publishers in setting up a house in Australia to publish Australian works, but by April he was back in Sydney. Out of pocket from his travels he rejoined the Bulletin staff and talked the editor, Samuel Prior, into establishing the Australian Book Publishing Co. Ltd under the imprint of Endeavour Press, with Stephensen as editor. Beginning with Norman's Saturdee (1933) it published twenty titles, but the interest in Australian books had been overestimated and the press closed in 1935. Meanwhile The Cautious Amorist (1932), his first attempt at a novel written twenty years before, had been published in New York. Australian Customs forbade its entry.

Lindsay now entered a period of depression—his hunchback phase he called it—when creative work seemed impossible. To recapture his energy he left Springwood in 1934 and rented a studio at 12 Bridge Street, Sydney. Here he began to paint constantly in oils for the first time, working continuously from the model. His studio became a kind of art and literary salon visited by old and new friends, the latter including the writers Kenneth Mackenzie, John Tierney ('Brian James') and Stewart. However, most of the new generation of artists and writers who began to exhibit and publish in the late 1930s and had come under the influence of modernism found Lindsay's art and writing old fashioned and its philosophy, so strongly tainted with anti-Semitism, sinister.

During the 1930s Lindsay's political cartoons expressed the Bulletin's isolationist policies, but during World War II they became as ardently anti-German as they had been in World War I. Rose, fearing an allied defeat and a German occupation of Springwood, left Australia for America with her married daughter Honey Glad and her husband. Norman returned to Springwood, as did his other daughter, Jane. Rose took with her the Casanova drawings that McIntosh had failed to publish years before, but they were destroyed by fire in a freight train with other Lindsay drawings. Depressed by the incident, Rose returned to Springwood.

In 1945 Lindsay published The Cousin from Fiji, his most carefully constructed novel. He continued to exhibit with the Australian Water-Colour Institute until 1952, but after that his work was mostly shown in retrospective exhibitions or with that of other members of his family. Bohemians of the Bulletin appeared in 1965 and The Scribblings of an Idle Mind in 1966. His views had not changed substantially since he wrote Creative Effort, but he had more to say about his belief in the lost city of Atlantis. Norman Lindsay painted his last picture, 'For King and Parliament', in September 1969. He died at Springwood on 21 November that year and was buried with Methodist forms in Springwood cemetery. He was survived by his son Jack, who had become a prolific and very distinguished writer, and by his second wife and their two daughters. His estate was valued for probate at $65,698. In 1970 his autobiography, My Mask, was published. Norman had arranged for the State branch of the National Trust of Australia to acquire Springwood.

Norman Lindsay was a pen draughtsman and etcher of great technical brilliance, a fine watercolourist and craftsman of ship-models. His oil paintings were less successful, heavy handed both in touch and colour. Though a private man, happiest in the company of a few friends, throughout his life he enacted, in a manner unrivalled in Australia, the public role of the artist as a critic of moral and social values. In his early years he exercised a liberating force upon Australian culture but in later life his fear of modernism in literature and art and his anti-Semitism were characteristic of a generation that feared change. His portrait (1931) by Longstaff is in the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Norman's second son Raymond (1903-1960), artist, was brought up in Brisbane by his mother. Towards the end of World War I he became a cadet reporter on the Brisbane Courier, but lost the job after reporting a local council meeting that did not take place. He joined his mother in Sydney in 1921 and, keen to become an artist, received free tuition at Ashton's Sydney Art School; his father provided his art materials. Ray left Ashton's, probably because of differences over painting technique, and studied for a time at the Royal Art Society's class. At the National Art Gallery of New South Wales, Ford Madox Brown's 'Chaucer at the Court of King Edward III' made a deep impression, and he aspired to become a painter of Australian history subjects.

During the late 1920s Ray painted several large canvases depicting aspects of the mutiny of 1808 and the arrest of Governor William Bligh. When shown at the annual exhibition of the Society of Artists in 1928, they were well received. Cecil Mann wrote in the Bulletin that they surpassed the work of Norman at a comparable age. Dame Nellie Melba purchased 'Major Johnston Announcing the Arrest of Governor Bligh, January 1808', presented it to the Geelong Art Gallery and advised Lindsay to 'get out of this country'. 'It's no good for any artist'. Rubery Bennett exhibited Ray's work at his Australian Fine Art Gallery in July 1929, and again it was favourably reviewed and sold well. On 28 December he married Loma Kyle Turnbull, the potter Loma 'Latour'. Lindsay's success as a painter did not survive the difficult years of the Depression and he turned increasingly to freelance illustration and reading for publishers. In the mid-1930s he separated from his wife, whom he divorced in March 1941, and married Margaret Joan Skinner on 21 May. He wrote art criticism for the Daily Telegraph and continued to paint subject pictures occasionally, particularly of pirate themes.

Like his uncle Percy, Ray was a convivial Bohemian and lacked the driving energy of his father. After 1930, with both his brothers in England, he was solely responsible for his ailing mother. The fame of his father Norman and the reputations of his uncles Lionel and Percy did not make his success as a painter in Sydney any easier. Survived by his wife, he died of cancer on 13 June 1960 at Elizabeth Bay and was cremated.

Norman's third son Philip (1906-1958), novelist, was educated at the Church of England Grammar School, Brisbane, where his only interest lay in history and literature. At 14 he returned to Sydney with his mother and brothers and lived in rented rooms at Darlinghurst and Bondi. Also provided with free tuition at the Sydney Art School, he quickly found that art was not for him and drifted into the company of a mob of Kings Cross larrikins—graphically described in his autobiography, I'd Live the Same Life Over (1941). His father encouraged his early efforts at writing and lent him books, notably Anthony Trollope. A short sketch of Philip's was published in Vision (November 1923) and some early verses appeared in the Spinner in 1926. In September 1929 he arrived in London after encouragement from Jack, and some of his poems and sketches were published in the London Aphrodite (1929).

Reading in the British Museum, Philip turned increasingly to the historical novel. His first book, Morgan in Jamaica (1930), and his novel, Panama is Burning (1932), continued that interest in piracy which had obsessed his family since the 1890s. He then took to writing historical romances of the Tudor and later medieval periods. On the strength of his highly successful Here Comes the King (1933) he became artistic director of (Sir) Alexander Korda's film, The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933).

Writing with verbal exuberance and violent colour, Philip Lindsay published a historical novel or monograph (and sometimes two) almost every year. He acknowledged the mastery of Sir Walter Scott, admired Richard III as a king and was a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. He wrote some sensitive studies of Australian poetry and in 1951 a biography, Don Bradman.

On 4 April 1933 Lindsay married a divorcee Jeanne Ellis, née Bellon; they had one daughter. After their divorce he married on 15 September 1943 another divorcee Isobel Beatrice Spurgeon, née Day. They lived in Sussex where his adopted village 'adored him in his Johnsonian chair at the Rose and Crown'. He died of a respiratory disease at Hastings on 4 January 1958, survived by his wife.

Robert and Jane Lindsay's seventh child and second daughter, Ruby, was born on 20 March 1885. She left home for Melbourne at 16 and resided for a time with her brother Percy, while attending the National Gallery School. She drew occasionally for the Hawklet, the Bulletin and regularly for the Adelaide satirical journal, the Gadfly (1906), illustrated books such as 'Rudd's' Back at Our Selection (1906) and William Moore's Studio Sketches (1906), and designed posters. On 30 September 1909 she married Will Dyson at Creswick and travelled with him and her brother Norman to London. In England she continued with book illustrations, particularly of children's books. Her daughter Elizabeth was born on 11 September 1911. After the war her brother Daryl took her to visit relations in Belfast and Dublin. There she caught the influenza virus then sweeping Europe and died in Chelsea a few days later on 12 March 1919.

Of shy, retiring disposition, Ruby Lindsay was described by Henry Tonks as 'the most beautiful creature I ever looked at'. Many others remarked on her unusual beauty. Haldane MacFall described her as 'one of the most remarkable women-artists with pen-line now living' in A History of Painting (1911). Shortly after her death Will Dyson published Poems: In Memory of a Wife (1919) and Cecil Palmer produced The Drawings of Ruby Lind (1920).

The sixth son and ninth child of Robert and Jane Lindsay, Ernest Daryl, born on 31 December 1889, joined the Ballarat branch of the English, Scottish and Australian Bank as a junior clerk at 17. About a year later Daryl became a jackeroo. He worked for two years at Yeranbah on the Narran River, south Queensland, and took part in overlanding 9000 Shorthorns from Hebel to Camooweal. Then he put in another two years at Kulki near Argoon, before becoming an overseer first at Ercildoune, then at Trawalla near Ballarat.

Daryl enlisted as a driver in the Australian Army Service Corps, served in France for almost two years and became batman to his brother-in-law Will Dyson who encouraged him to make drawings of trench life and portraits of diggers. On leave in London in 1918 his talent in drawing was noticed and he was posted with the rank of honorary lieutenant to the Australian section for wounds to the face and jaw at Queen Mary's Hospital, Sidcup, Kent. Here he met Henry Tonks, head of the Slade School of Fine Art, at whose suggestion he was given one day a week to study drawing at the Slade, his task at Sidcup being to make medical diagrams for facial surgery. Tonks and Lindsay became lifelong friends and his taste in art was largely fashioned around the work of the artists of the New English Art Club, such as Walter Sickert and Wilson Steer, and patient study of the English water-colour tradition.

Back in Melbourne in June 1919 Lindsay held an exhibition of war sketches at the Decoration Art Gallery in August. He joined Dillon's Sun Art studios and designed posters for Robur tea and Swallow & Ariell puddings, and illustrations for Pals magazine. Sun Art studios published his Digger Book (1919). About 1920 he obtained a commission from the directors of the Mount Morgan Gold Mining Co. Ltd, Queensland, to make a series of drawings and water-colours of the mine. In 1921 he returned to London for further study, taking with him a letter of introduction from Sir Baldwin Spencer to Frank Rinder, adviser to the Felton bequest committee. In London Lindsay haunted the art museums and art auction houses, laying the foundation of knowledge of the art market and connoisseurship that was to serve him so well later. Rinder introduced him to men of influence in London's art world such as Harold Wright of Colnaghi's, D. W. Cameron, Sir Charles Holmes, and (Sir) George Clausen, a former Felton adviser.

In London he married Joan à Beckett, writer and daughter of Theyre à Beckett Weigall, barrister, at the Marylebone Registry Office on 14 February 1922. On returning to Melbourne they lived at St Kilda and Toorak before making a permanent home at Mulberry Hill, Baxter. Lindsay continued to work with Dillon but developed his landscape painting, sketching often in company with George Bell. In June 1924 the Fine Arts Society Gallery, Melbourne, held an exhibition of the water-colour drawings of Joan and Daryl Lindsay, and in July 1928 a second exhibition of his water-colours.

In 1930 the Lindsays returned to Europe and Daryl held an exhibition of water-colour paintings at Colnaghi's. During a visit to Ireland he painted hunters, then landscapes on the Norfolk Broads with Sir Alison Russell before returning to Australia. In June 1931 the Fine Arts Society Gallery held an exhibition of his oil paintings, and in August Art in Australia published a Daryl Lindsay number. It well reveals the style and range of interests from which his art never departed, clear and well-structured but unambitious water-colours of picturesque landscapes, and oil paintings in similar vein reminiscent of the late style of Gruner.

In the late 1930s Lindsay became a close friend of Sir Keith Murdoch and encouraged him to collect and take an active interest in art. In 1937 Lindsay and his wife again visited Europe, travelling widely on the Continent. In London he bought pictures for Murdoch, made drawings of the de Basil ballet, and was elected an associate of the Royal Society of Painters in Water Colours. In 1939, on Murdoch's advice, he applied for and was appointed keeper of the prints, National Gallery of Victoria. He was appointed director in 1941.

Under Lindsay the gallery broadened its appeal to the general public, abandoned its traditional hostility to modern art, and made notable acquisitions both of old masters and contemporary work. With Murdoch's assistance he took steps to establish the National Gallery Society of Victoria in 1947. He visited America under the auspices of the Carnegie Corporation of New York in 1952. Lindsay retired as director in December 1956 and was knighted for his services to Australian art next year. In 1960 he returned to the Northern Territory, camping with cattlemen while sketching and painting. The Legend Press later published a portfolio of reproductions of his paintings entitled 'A tribute to the men and horses of the Northern Territory'. Lindsay was a member of the Commonwealth Art Advisory Board in 1953-73 (chairman 1960-69) and founding president of the Victorian branch of the National Trust of Australia. In 1964 a book of essays was published to commemorate his services to the National Gallery of Victoria, entitled In Honour of Daryl Lindsay. He published an autobiography, The Leafy Tree, in 1965.

Survived by his wife (d.1984), Lindsay died on 25 December 1976 at Mornington and was cremated. His portrait by George Bell is at Mulberry Hill, which was left to the National Trust.

Select Bibliography

  • Pen Drawings of Norman Lindsay, S. Ure Smith and B. Stevens eds (Syd, 1918)
  • Norman Lindsay Water Colour Book (Syd, 1939)
  • Jack Lindsay, Life Rarely Tells (Melb, 1958)
  • Joan Lindsay, Time Without Clocks (Melb, 1962)
  • F. Philipp and J. Stewart (eds), In Honour of Daryl Lindsay (Melb, 1964)
  • Rose Lindsay, Model Wife (Syd, 1967)
  • L. B. Cox, The National Gallery of Victoria, 1861 to 1968 (Melb, 1970)
  • J. Hetherington, Norman Lindsay (Melb, 1973)
  • R. Radford, Percy Lindsay, Ballarat Fine Art Gallery exhibition catalogue (Ballarat, 1975)
  • D. Stewart, Norman Lindsay (Melb, 1975)
  • L. Bloomfield (ed), The World of Norman Lindsay (Melb, 1979)
  • E. Hanks (compiler), Australian Art and Artists to 1950 (Melb, 1982), and for bibliography
  • Ray Lindsay, A Letter from Sydney (Melb, 1983)
  • R. McMullin, Will Dyson (Syd, 1984)
  • Studio (London), Dec 1948
  • U. E. Prunster, The Pagan in Norman Lindsay (M.A. thesis, University of Sydney, 1983), and for bibliography.

Additional Resources

Citation details

Bernard Smith, 'Lindsay, Percival Charles (1870–1952)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 28 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (Melbourne University Press), 1986

View the front pages for Volume 10

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Percival Lindsay, by Edward Searle, 1941

Percival Lindsay, by Edward Searle, 1941

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an23351681

Life Summary [details]


17 September, 1870
Creswick, Victoria, Australia


21 September, 1952 (aged 82)
North Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.