Blog 2: Meeting Norman Lindsay

My interest in art goes back a long way. Wherever I have travelled I have always carried paints and a watercolour pad to capture memories of hilltop views or coastal plains. I find it relaxing and spiritually enriching to connect with the landscape in this way and I can look back at these crude brush marks and feel a great sense of place and emotion. I think humans have this intrinsic need to connect to the land and to make their mark in different ways.

In the late 60’s as a young doctor at Royal North Shore Hospital I had the opportunity to meet Norman Lindsay and I was excited to meet this famous and controversial Australian artist to say the least. We spent many hours discussing art, mostly his harsh views on modern art, although he kindly looked at my paintings and was gentle and encouraging with his criticism! He believed drawing was the key to any artistic venture. I base all my own works on the use of that lovely implement, the pencil.

Da Vinci’s definition of Art is finally authorative "Art must reveal the direction of man’s soul, which is defined by the action of the limbs." With patience Lindsay showed me how to draw faces and hands. I still have the drawings and a letter he wrote to me inviting me to his Springwood home.

In that very special letter he wrote:

Of late, a considerable number of people have written, claiming high talents for some youthful art student, who, when presented with his works, is just the average young muddler caught up with the present day looney bin creed of impressionism, showing no evidence of study from life, which is the basis of all quality in conceptual art. But your case is different. (phew, that was a relief!) First of all, you are a medico, and it is your profession which has supported the whole art movement in this country. Apollo was the God of art and medicine, and the unity there is that both the artist and the doctor are equally engrossed in studying the constitution of the human ego – physically and mentally. Moreover, you have gone the right way about it, which is direct study from life, and the various mediums used in its pictorial presentation.”


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