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Norman Lindsays nudes are arguably his most well-known and collectible subjects. The Ruben-esque forms have become some of Australian art historys most recognisable nudes - with a characteristic femininity that is entirely unique to his oeuvre. He devoted much of his working life to representing the sensuality and physical perfection of his subjects. His nudes are imbued with a strong sensuality which is revealed in their physical forms; a generous bosom, muscular limbs, and an angular countenance. These idiosyncratic features characterise the women in Lindsays art who essentially act as storytellers, it is through these expressive female figures that the artists vision comes to life.

Throughout his long and prolific career, Lindsay worked with dozens of models, preferring to paint from life rather than pictures or photographs. Up until the 1930s, the artists production was limited to watercolours, drawings and etchings, however in 1932, Lindsay took up a studio on Bridge Street in Sydneys CBD and began to experiment with oil paint. The Bridge Street studio years became a significant period in the artists career and presented Lindsay with a fertile source of inspiration. Making use of the space, Lindsay began painting his models as individual subjects, rather than simply figures within a composition. His paintings from this time are a departure from the allegorical themes of his early career; his nudes are an homage to the female form as a stand-alone entity.

I have taken the feminine image as a dominant factor in my concept of life, both because I love the beauty of women, and because they are the continuity principle which drives life eternally on into the future I have utterly repudiated the academic nude image of femininity as an innocuous stuffed dummy designed to decorate the walls of second-class suburban homes, but I have sought to infuse into it as much vitality and desirability as my own response to women suggests, and which is the normal response of any properly constituted male ego.1

Reclining Nude has a rich history, having once belonged to the British actor, James Mason (1909-1984), who starred in the film adaptation of Norman Lindsays novel, The Age of Consent. Lindsays book was first published in 1938 however was banned in Australia. The rights to the film were purchased in 1962 and filming began in 1968. Mason met Lindsay when he was in Australia filming and the current work was possibly purchased around this time.

Reclining Nude has all the inimitable qualities of Lindsays finest nudes, in addition to having a compelling provenance. The arresting gaze of the model in this work is characteristic of Lindsays most accomplished female forms, her pose and demeanour demand the attention of the viewer. Lindsay favoured dark backgrounds in the studio for this models and the patterned backdrop in the present work provides a dramatic setting for the scene. Lindsay has adorned his model with a white lace mantilla, a prop he often used on his models and which features in some of the artists most famous works.


1. Norman Lindsay cited in Bloomfield, L., Norman Lindsay: Oil Painting 1889-1969, Odana Editions, Bungendore, 2006, p.10

Caroline Jones MArtAdmin

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