Saturday, February 9, 2013

Sir Lionel Linsday: Australia's Select Printmaker

How many of us printmakers come from a creative family? Some argue that creativity is as much environmental or acquired as much as it may be inherent within our DNA. Upon discovery of this post's entry, there is some substantial evidence to support the idea that creativity runs within families like genetic traits of one's hair or eye color.

One of Australia's outstanding printmakers has been Sir Lionel Lindsay. The third son of ten children(five became artists), Lindsay's family were seriously into the arts, and his siblings (Norman, Percy, Ruby and Daryl) were recognized artists in their own right.  Lindsay's parents, Robert Charles William Alexander Lindsay,   a surgeon from Londonderry, Ireland, and  Jane,  the daughter of a Wesleyan missionary, the Rev. Thomas Williams were originally from Ayrshire, Scotland. The Lindsay family prospered from the linen trade, but  Lionel's father sailed to Melbourne, Australia in 1864 as a medical officer,  married Jane, and thus began the Lindsay artistic dynasty.

In 1874, Lionel was born in Creswick, in Australia's Victoria district. He was educated with his brothers  at Creswick Grammar School, where he edited the Boomerang magazine. Lionel's early interest in art was encouraged by his maternal grandfather who took him to galleries and museums.  He taught himself to draw by copying illustrations from periodicals, and became an admirer and collector of the work of the artist Charles Keene. Lionel became a pupil-assistant at the Melbourne Observatory (1889–1892) and later studied at the National Gallery School,Melbourne. Lindsay also taught himself printmaking in the 1890s. 

In 1907 he held an extremely successful exhibition at the Society of Artists. The work consisted of etchings about The Rocks, a run down section of old buildings in Sydney.  Two decades after 1907 he was still active with the Society of Artists and in 1921 Lindsay became president of  the Australian Painter-Etchers' Society. He  exhibited in London in 1923 and had his most successful exhibition with a London art dealer,  Colnaghi's Galleries,   who helped establish Lindsay as a major British printmaker.  

Lionel had settled in Sydney as a freelance artist and journalist. He worked for a number of publications and magazines, namely the Hawklet, the Daily Telegraph, the Bulletin, the ReviewPugh's Almanac the OutpostWeekly TimesClarion and the Arena. Between 1905 and 1919 Lionel  illustrated twenty-six books published by the New South Wales Bookstall Co., he was a contributor for the Lone Hand.

In 1926, Lindsay and his family lived in Monte Carlo, where he worked on copperplates, making his prints from portable press, and the next year he had an exhibition at Colnaghi's of sixty-seven etchings, dry-points and wood-engravings.  The exhibition was a great success. 'Lindsay made further overseas visits, continued to exhibit regularly with the Macquarie Galleries in Sydney, and the Sedon Gallery in Melbourne, and served as a trustee of the National Art Gallery of New South Wales in 1918-29 and 1934-49. In 1941, Lindsay was knighted for his services to Australian art.

As an art critic in newspapers and art magazines, he was highly influential. In books such as A Consideration of the Art of Ernest Moffitt and Conrad Martens, the Man and his Art (1920) he pioneered tAustralia's he publication of art monographs. Lindsay wrote about  art he admired, yet his tastes did not extend beyond Post-Impressionism and he detested Modernism, expressing his feelings in a publication calleAddled Art (1942).

Lionel Lindsay died in 1961. He left his Keene drawing collection to the National Gallery of Victoria. The Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery, Queensland, hold a representive group of Lindsay's works, and an autobiography, Comedy of Life, was published posthumously in 1967. 

Lindsay's etching and his magnificent wood-engravings of birds and other animals have not been surpassed in Australia.  They are comparable to John J. Audubon for their sensitivity of form and attention to detail. They are joyously left descriptive in black and white rather than hand-coloring them. Lindsay's contributions to science and art are notable and we have him to thank for aptly describing the breadth of Australian fowl and local scenery. 

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