Part 1: Important Fine Art
28 November 2012


(1879 - 1969)

oil on canvas

42.5 x 35.0 cm

signed lower left: NORMAN LINDSAY

$30,000 - 40,000
Sold for $33,600 (inc. BP) in Auction 27 - 28 November 2012, Melbourne

Estate of the artist, Sydney
Private collection, Sydney


Bloomfield, J., Norman Lindsay Oil Paintings 1889 – 1969, Odana Editions, Sydney, 2006, pp. 74, 75 (illus.)

Catalogue text

The poet and author Douglas Stewart wrote of his friend Norman Lindsay, 'He paints women as if they were goddesses.'1 Women were the chief motif in Lindsay's art, being his lifelong weapon in his fight against wowserism. They were usually of Amazonian stature, blond, blue eyed and dominant, femme fatales as in the bewitching oil painting Incantation, 1940, or buxom ladies as the booty of buccaneers in the watercolour Ladies for Ransom, c1938. While Lindsay did not take up portraiture until later in his career, paintings in which his models featured have often been identified as such. In Portrait of Margaret Coen, c1940, the artist and wife of Lindsay's friend Douglas Stewart is presented as a nude. There are also many fine 1940s portraits of Rita Lee, a favourite model who usually appeared bare bosomed wearing a gorgeously plumed hat, comb, or necklace. Of Rita, Lindsay enthused, 'She had the loveliest breasts I ever painted from ...'2 In the period study watercolour Rita of the Eighties, 1940, the white feathered hat and lace trim of the dress caught up in the vivacious strokes of the brush give it a particular delicacy, continued in the oil The White Feather, of a model unknown. Of the more regular portraits that Lindsay later painted of poets and writers, the National Library of Australia, Canberra, holds the oils Rosemary Dobson, c1940s and Portrait of R.D. FitzGerald, c1950. The head and shoulders of the second version Lindsay painted of Dobson recalls that of The Jade Earring, c1933. Lin Bloomfield in her handsome study of Lindsay's oil paintings tells us that 'The model for this elegant portrait is unknown.'3 While she may share the long neck, dark hair, full lips and almond eyes of Rita, they are not the same. This is confirmed by an engaging pencil drawing, Portrait of a Female, c1940, a related study for the oil.4 The demure, classical pose presents a woman of refined beauty, highlighted by the play of light on inviting flesh tones and greens of the subtly placed jade adornments.

1. Stewart, D., The Flesh and the Spirit ', Angus and Robertson, Sydney 1948, p. 277
2. Lindsay, N., My Mask: For what little I know of the man behind it, an autobiography, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1970, p. 241
3. Bloomfield, J., Norman Lindsay Oil Paintings 1889 -1969, Odana Editions, Sydney, 2006, p. 74
4. The drawing, which is a back view, is inscribed 'To my friend Harry McPhee. Norman Lindsay', and verso, 'For my birthday 14 December 1968'