ONWARDS!, 1967

Important Fine Art + Aboriginal Art
2 December 2015


(1879 – 1969)
ONWARDS!, 1967

watercolour on paper

55.0 x 60.0 cm

signed and dated lower right: NORMAN LINDSAY / 1967

$20,000 – 30,000
Sold for $23,180 (inc. BP) in Auction 41 - 2 December 2015, Sydney

Roy and Nancy Melick, Sydney
Estate of Nancy Melick OAM, Sydney

Catalogue text

This ambitious later work presents an extraordinary array of Norman Lindsay’s characters, ranging from cavalier on horseback, to pirates, buccaneers, naval officers and scallywags as a crowded backdrop to the central helmet-clad Amazon nude figure. With horn blowing and drumbeating dwarf figures in the foreground the central figure with raised arms leads the parade in a chorus-like victory celebration.

The domination of a triumphant central female figure is a common theme throughout Norman Lindsay’s art. Throngs of historical characters typically fill the backgrounds and sometimes encircle the main figure as seen in the major examples: The Prize, c.1937 (private collection); Amazons, 1939 (The Norman Lindsay Gallery and Museum); Crete, 1940 (The University of Melbourne Art Collection); Homage to Balzac, 1941 (The University of Melbourne Art Collection).

Painted around the same time as In Homage to Samuel Pepys, 1966 and on the same large scale, Onwards! has no doubt drawn inspiration from the seventeenth century writer. ‘All his life Norman read and re-read Pepys’ diaries... 'I’ve been reading my old friend Sam Pepys again, starting from Vol 1 as I always do, and so on to Vol 8. What a lot I owe that book in entertainment. There’s so much in it to enliven one’s detective faculties in following out the infinite complications in affairs, and detecting motives behind the conflicts of personality in the Navy office...’.1 Although populated with a cast of late seventeenth century characters, In Homage to Samuel Pepys has much in common with Onwards!. Both works feature the same port with city skyline backdrop and overpopulated ensembles of characters in the foreground filling the compositions.

1. Bloomfield, L., Norman Lindsay Oil Paintings 1889–1969, Odana Editions, Bungendore, New South Wales, 2006, p. 284