Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Norman Lindsay: Gallery at Faulconbridge

While we were in the Blue Mountains, we went to the Norman Lindsay Gallery at Faulconbridge - the artist's former home. Norman Lindsay (1879 - 1969) is most known for illustrating the Aussie children's classic, The Magic Pudding, but he also painted watercolours, sketched cartoons and made models of ships. The gallery contains many of these.

We were taken on a very lacklustre tour in which the guide didn't seem particularly interested. Lindsay married Catherine (Kate) Agatha Parkinson in 1900, and she operated his heavy and cumbersome printing equipment, encouraged and supported his career, and bore him three sons (Jack: 1900; Raymond: 1903; Philip: 1906). In typical male artist fashion, however, Lindsay began an affair with Rose Soady, who began modelling for him in 1902. By the time he left for London in 1909, Rose had supplanted his wife, and joined him there in 1910. He divorced Kate in 1918 and married Rose in 1920.

The gardens are full of sculptures and fountains featuring suggestive nudes and lewd fawns. None of the women in his artwork look particularly attractive. All of them seem ugly, crudely sexual and aggressively predatory. I didn't really like them, although I appreciated his talent, but Him Outdoors was distinctly unimpressed.

These nudes were highly controversial in their time; when Soady took sixteen crates of his art to the U.S. in 1940 to protect them from the war, they were impounded when the train they were travelling on caught fire, and subsequently burned as pornographic material. He also wrote several books which were banned by the censors, and caused a stir when he wrote such an enduring popular children's book.

In 1994 Sam Neill played a fictionalised version of Lindsay in John Duigan's Sirens, set and filmed mainly at Lindsay's Faulconbridge home. I saw the film at the time and knew nothing of the artist - I thought it was just a sexist piece of soft porn featuring a lot of dripping wet women (including Elle MacPherson in her  film debut) in lakes being leched at by some pervy old bloke. No further comment.

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