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Rare Norman Lindsay Portrait

Norman Lindsay - Artist

Norman, foremost, spent his life trumpeting his version of bohemianism and raging against the incipient creep of “wowserism’. Sadly, today it seems the wowsers have won.

This portrait is pure Norman, and it seethes with an adolescent sexual bravado. Not the model, but the artist’s. Norman put the “tit” into “titillating”.  His models, gamine, supple, sinuous, sensual and exuding an aura of hypercharged sexuality were prerequisites for those gentlemen who chose ‘Esquire’ as their literary cup of tea. And to make things respectable, or at the very least palatable, Norman classicised his nudes under the mantle of ancient Rome and Greece. That took it on to a sacred intellectual platform. There was at least some modicum of respectabilty in that. And besides it’s harder to have a show closed down if the only reference is “Salome”, “Queen of Sheba”, or another Satyr and the Satyricon. Contemporary photographers who walk that thin line between what’s considered intellectually appropriate  as against “lewd” have taken heed of Normans stance, and thus gained their own chain-mail to protect them from the slings and arrows of confected ratbaggery,  prudism and wowserism. 

Norman’s Rose, (or is it Rita, his other popular “ exotic looking model? ) at a mere 30 x 40cm, it roughly approximates to the same dimensions of a Playboy, or a copy of ‘Man’. This image is Man c. 1945. The war in the Pacific is won, and those South Sea Islands hold treasures that must be savoured.  “She’s busting loose”, and there’s something about the expression on her face that’s not Sunday school, though a suggestion perhaps, that the picnic afterwards could be fun. 

Lindsay painted this at the peak of his powers. Remember he didn’t pick up the oil brush till mid career, and gained a fluency with oil and vibracy that few could match, albeit with an almost lyrical commercial finish. Lindsay’s oils were never subtle. They leap from the canvas, and cannot be  hid unobtrusively. The light pours out of them.  They exude an incandesence. Its all life, flesh tint, sex and the roseate hew of femininity, and the promise, breathlessly, it must be said, of  “more sex”… in full flush. These lips, glisten with an oleaginous willingness. This portrait exudes fun. A perfect rejoinder to  animated conversation and the delights of travel. Yours to own for the term of your natural life. Or as Errol so sagely put it in regard to his very Own Van Gogh, ‘to pass through ones hands’.

(David McCubbin)

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