Norman Lindsay's Robin Hood

My interest in the legend of Robin Hood has led me down many paths over the years. I have a love of art and have a particular interest in illustrations of our outlaw hero. But I must confess I had never heard of the Australian artist Norman Lindsay, until I saw this beautiful etching called, ‘Robin Hood’ that he created in 1922 for a book of verse called Idyllia, by the poet Hugh McCrae. So I thought I would investigate the life of this multi-talented man.

Norman Lindsay (1879-1969), was a prolific artist, cartoonist, and writer. He came from a family that incredibly produced five artists of distinction.

Lindsay was born in Creswick, Victoria in Australia and was the son of Irish surgeon Robert Charles William Alexander Lindsay and Jane Elizabeth Lindsay. Fifth of ten children, six boys and four girls, he is now widely regarded as one of Australia’s best loved and greatest artists. Producing a vast body of incredible work in different media, including pen drawing, etching, watercolour, oil and sculptures in concrete and bronze.

As a child he suffered ill health (a blood disorder) which prevented him pursuing energetic hobbies, so he spent his time learning to draw and paint.

Lindsay left home when he was sixteen to live with his brother in Melbourne. In 1901 he moved north to make his permanent home in the Blue Mountains, to the west of Sydney, in a stone cottage in landscaped grounds. He began working for the Australian journal the Bulletin as an artist, reviewer and contributor of essays and fiction. His association with the Bulletin lasted for over fifty years, almost until his death in 1969. Working for journal as an editorial cartoonist he was able to express his and the magazines political view in his art. But his paintings and drawings were often condemned by the establishment as immoral, and aroused much controversy for their overt sexuality. They were also distinctly politically incorrect and often disrespectful, but the frankness and vitality of his work was an expression of his own personality. One of his pen drawings, the Crucified Venus caused such a stir that it was removed from an art show, only to be returned later under threat of removing all the art by the President of the Society of Artist if it was not returned.

He subsequently led a bohemian life in Melbourne where he established his reputation. This period is reflected in his first novel, A Curate in Bohemia (1913). Lindsay was the main driving force behind Vision, a magazine edited by his son Jack Lindsay and Kenneth Slessor. Creative Effort (1920) and Madam Life's Lovers (1929) express his aesthetic credo.

Lindsay’s energy and creativity became legendary; he usually worked on multiple projects, in different mediums, at the same time. He often rose before dawn, completed a watercolor before having breakfast, worked on some etchings during the day, moved out to the garden to work on a concrete sculpture in the afternoon and finished chapters of his current novel after dinner.

For recreation, he would work on model ships, and he was very precise in his measurements and detail. He also made lead figures for his ships, decorated and carved pieces of furniture, built chairs, planters and Roman columns and even did the building of several additions to his home. He was also known for his lavish house parties.

Norman Lindsay married Kate Parkinson in Melbourne in 1900; they had three sons but were divorced in 1918. One son, Jack, went on to become a noted publisher and writer in England. He married Rose Soady, one of his long-time models, in 1920, and they had two daughters. One daughter, Helen, known as Honey, later took over the printmaking studio in the grounds of Springwood; and built a house around it.

Lindsay also created propaganda and recruitment posters that were commissioned by the Australian government during World War I.

His well-known children’s book, ‘The Magic Pudding,’ was produced in 1918. This classic is still in print, having been translated into four languages and published in three countries; it remains a popular book for children. Other work of literature was not received well. Many aroused protest for his revolutionary ideas and their sexual explicitness. Redheap (1930; US title Every Mother's Son), was banned in Australia until 1958, as was the first part of his trilogy which also included Saturdee (1933) and Halfway to Anywhere (1947); these novels, with their sexually vigorous young protagonists, comically depict small town life. Novels in similar vein include The Cautious Amorist (1932), also banned, and The Age of Consent (1938). Other works include Norman Lindsay's Book, No. I (1912) and Norman Lindsay's Book, No. II (1915), sketches and stories; and My Mask (1970), an autobiography.

Survived by his wife Rose (d.1984) Norman Lindsay died on 25 December 1969 at Mornington and was cremated.


Clement of the Glen said...

Norman Lindsay (1879-1969)
Robin Hood

Azul said...

It's the first time Robin scares me :(

Mike Giddens said...

Gosh, I Love this and what a Girl!!

Avalon said...

Are they loving or is he protecting her? He is holding her wrists? Sorry, I have no nature for art and like a child, I have to have even simple artwork explained.

Brilliant post as always. It always astounds me how some many people, from all over, are fascinated by the Robin Hood Legend.

Anonymous said...

Mate. This blog is amazing. How can I make it look this good ?.