Important Australian + International Fine Art
20 April 2011


(1879 - 1969)

oil on canvas

47.0 x 59.0 cm

signed lower left: NORMAN LINDSAY

$55,000 - 75,000

James Mason, Switzerland, acquired c.1968
The Estate of James Mason, Switzerland
Private collection, Melbourne

Catalogue text

Reclining Nude is highly characteristic of the fleshy portraits of naked women that Norman Lindsay loved to paint. Set against a sumptuous backdrop of deep brocade fabric, the central figure reclines suggestively atop a frothy silken dress of which she has probably just disrobed. She looks directly to the viewer with a beguiling and bewitching gaze full of promise and encouragement. The whisp of a white lace mantilla cascades over her left shoulder lending a sense of innocence now taken. Quite possibly it is the same veil in which Rita poses in Odalesque 1942 (see lot 38). The model bears resemblance to the central heroine in Homage to Venus, bequethed to the University of Melbourne by the artist in 1969. Venus wears a similar pearl bracelet to the muse in this painting and poses in the same reclining fashion of a woman among her subjects.

The painting has an interesting history having been acquired by the late British actor James Mason around 1968 when he was in Australia to film Michael Powell's adaptation of Norman Lindsay's semi-autobiographical novel Age of Consent, in which he co-starred with a young Helen Mirren. Released in 1969 the film was about a successful but disillusioned Australian artist living in New York, Bradley Morahan, who returns to tropical north Queensland in an attempt to rediscover his creative roots. Instead he meets muse and future model Cora Ryan who is played by Mirren in her first major film role. On set Mason also met his future wife Clarissa Kaye who played the role of Morahan's former Australian girlfriend, Meg. The parallels to Lindsay's life of painting his various muses in the Arcadian setting of Springwood are all in evidence and Mason must have taken the Reclining Nude home as aide-memoire or souvenir of his time in Australia. The film was successful only in Australia and Norman Lindsay passed away the year the film was released. Mason had a substantial art collection in his Swiss home, which consisted mostly of Yorkshire landscapes by the artist Peter Brook who he met while filming the Likely Lads the year following his time in Australia.