Norman Lindsay was a member of a family of artists and writers who played a central role in Australian artistic life during the early and mid-1900’s. The family included four brothers—Percy, Lionel, Norman, and Daryl—and their sister, Ruby. All the Lindsays were artists, and Norman and Lionel were also writers. Lionel and Daryl received knighthoods for their achievements.
The five Lindsays were all born in the small town of Creswick, Victoria, near Ballarat. Each of the five served an apprenticeship as a graphic artist, either working for Melbourne newspapers or illustrating books and short stories. However, each of them developed an individual style as their art matured.
Percy Lindsay (1870-1952) was the eldest of the five. He became best known for his small landscape paintings, including many scenes in and around Creswick. Percy was a skillful colorist, and many critics consider him the best of the Lindsay painters.
Lionel Lindsay (1874-1961) won an international reputation as an etcher, wood engraver, and watercolor painter. He began his career in Melbourne as a newspaper illustrator. Later, he was a journalist and art critic. Lionel helped establish the reputation of the Heidelberg School of painters. The school’s emphasis on Australian life and landscape dominated the country’s painting in the early 1900’s and greatly influenced other Australian artists throughout much of the 1900’s. Lionel was knighted in 1941.
Norman Lindsay (1879-1969) became known for his pencil drawings, watercolors, and oil paintings. He also gained a reputation as a cartoonist, illustrator, novelist, and critic. Lindsay wrote The Magic Pudding (1918), a classic of Australian children’s literature. A complete list of the books he wrote or illustrated would run to about 100 titles. They included 11 novels, 5 books of criticism and philosophy, and 2 autobiographical books. His most famous adult novel is Redheap (1930), the autobiographical story of a boy growing up in the 1890’s in an Australian town resembling Creswick.
Ruby Lindsay (1885-1919) was a talented illustrator in watercolor and pen and ink. After marrying in 1909, she moved to London with her husband, Will Dyson, and her brother Norman. In London, she established herself as a book illustrator, especially of children’s books. While visiting Ireland, she caught the influenza virus sweeping through Europe and died at the age of 33.
Daryl Lindsay (1890-1976) was successful both as an artist and as an arts administrator. As an artist he became known for his watercolor and oil painting studies of ballet dancers and horse subjects. In 1941, Daryl was appointed director of the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne. Under his leadership, the gallery broadened its appeal to the general public and abandoned its hostility toward modern art. He made important purchases of both old master and modern work. Daryl retired as gallery director in 1956 and was knighted in 1957.