Important Australian + International Fine Art
20 April 2011


(1879 - 1969)

oil on canvas

57.0 x 55.5 cm

signed lower right: NORMAN LINDSAY

$55,000 - 75,000
Sold for $114,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 19 - 20 April 2011, Melbourne

The Estate of the artist, New South Wales
Thence by descent
Private collection, Sydney


Bloomfield, L., Norman Lindsay Oil Paintings 1889 – 1969, Odana Editions, Bugendore, 2006, pp. 176–177 (illus.)

Catalogue text

The buxom female nude cast in the role of Greek goddess, Bacchante, captive of Buccaneers, or odalisque appealed greatly to Norman Lindsay. A richly endowed symbol of sexual freedom in the face of the slavish Puritanism of his times, his nudes play a major role in his art. Presented singly, as in this painting, or featured as the central motif in countless subject pictures of bounteous pleasure ranging from the unrestrained adventures of Classical mythology through the more colourful moments of history such as the costumed delights of the Merry England in the days of Charles II when pleasure was a national pastime. The fair-haired Rose, Lindsay's second wife, was his favourite model, later followed closely by Rita Lee, who was the model for Odalesque. Rita was the perfect choice, her own exotic charms ideally suiting the role of the Eastern concubine or chosen beauty from the seraglio of the Sultan of Turkey. The appeal of the mysterious East and the passions of the West combined in the dark haired Rita, her father being Chinese and her mother Spanish. They gave her a body that was fluid and languorous, olive skinned, almond eyed with long, dark hair caressing her shoulders. Her serenity added a majestic aura to each painting or etching in which she appeared. Lindsay thought her to be the perfect model for oil painting, '...who secreted within her all those emotional intensities from which any variation on the feminine image may be extracted. She had the loveliest breasts I ever painted from, and they drove me to despair. No crude colour extracted from the earth can hope to capture the pearly shimmer of light on the youthful feminine breast'.1 For six years from the age of eighteen Rita sat for Lindsay in his Sydney studio and in the Blue Mountains at Springwood. In Odalesque and other like celebrations of feminine beauty, Lindsay tantalised the viewer through the fall of light on the wondrous bosom, seen through the flimsiest of veils. The relaxed pose of the voluptuous body and sultry look invites enjoyment within intimate surrounds.

1. Lindsay, N., My Mask: For what little I know of the man behind it, an autobiography, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1970, p. 241