Friday, May 19, 2017

Sir Lionel Lindsay: Australia's Audubon

The prints of Sir Lionel Arthur Lindsay (1874 –1961) enrapture the eye and make us envy this lively and animated lines. The beauty of his black and white prints reflect the interest of the era of Australian printmakers who loved the elegant and velvety black of their inked up prints.

Lindsay was a highly regarded Australian artist and illustrator, known for his prints of natural world subjects. Some would call him the Audubon of Australia, but in truth, his skills and love of all subjects allowed him to exhibit a variety of imagery far beyond the descriptiveness of Audubon. His work was more about real life and the things one sees every day; although we who do not live in Australia would be hard-pressed to envision kangaroos and emus roaming about as being a normal part of our lives.

He was born in Creswick, into a family of artists – Norman, Daryl, Ruby and Percy. The Lindsay family, originally from Ayrshire, Scotland, had settled in Tyrone in the late seventeenth century and prospered in the linen trade. Their early interest in art was encouraged by their maternal grandfather who took them on regular visits to the Ballarat Fine Arts Public Gallery.

Lionel was the third son and he taught himself to draw by copying illustrations from Punch and other periodicals found at home.

Lindsay taught himself printmaking in the 1890s. He settled in Sydney as a freelance artist and journalist. 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 studied at the National Gallery School, in Melbourne.

In 1907 he held an extremely successful exhibition of etchings in Sydney with the Society of Artists. In 1921, when the Australian Painter-Etchers' Society was formed, Lindsay was its first president.

Key themes in Lindsay’s work include the Outback, old Sydney, portraits, romantic views of Spain and Arab culture, and a very successful series of classically inspired still-lifes, birds and animals. It is mainly the animals I chose for this article as I find them charmingly direct and somewhat mischievous. His robust line defines form and makes them structurally sound. The horse and the goat are real charmers, and who cannot appreciate the way he draws his furry black cats.

His still-lifes are quite wonderful, well-defined in their volume and texture and light quality. They throw homage to the great still life artists like Chardin and Caravaggio.

Lindsay became a Trustee of the Art Gallery of New South Wales and was knighted for his services to Australian art in 1941. In 1942 he published Addled Art, an anti-semitic attack on modernism in art.

He died in Melbourne. His autobiography, Comedy of Life, was published posthumously.

The Lionel Lindsay Art Gallery and Library, in Toowoomba, Queensland, holds rare books, manuscripts and maps, and over 400 art works.

Portrait of Sir Lionel Lindsay...

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