Norman Lindsay’s rare status as an Australian artist who is also a household name is the result of numerous factors. His distinctive cartoons and drawings, published in The Bulletin and other popular illustrated journals from the late 1890s, were known and enjoyed throughout the country for more than half a century. His technical skill as a draftsman and artist was widely lauded, while the characteristically salacious and risqué subject matter of his art, in both its visual and literary forms, ensured its place in the news. This aspect of Lindsay’s oeuvre also attracted a curious and ever-increasing audience. It was, however, the succession of public controversies that surrounded Lindsay and his work which ultimately secured his notoriety and a permanent place within the Australian popular imagination.1 See A. Carroll, Moral Censorship and the Visual Arts in Australia, Melbourne, 1989; and P. Coleman, Obscenity, Blasphemy, Sedition: 100 Years of Censorship in Australia, Sydney 1974.

Sydney 1904

The first major controversy of Norman Lindsay’s career erupted in Sydney in 1904 when the pen and ink drawing, Pollice verso, 1904 (fig. 1), was displayed in the twenty-fifth Annual Exhibition of the Royal Art Society of New South Wales. One of three drawings by Lindsay that had been selected for inclusion within the black and white section of the exhibition,2 ‘Black and white’ was the name applied to drawings typically made in pen or brush and ink, which illustrated the popular press of the 19th and early 20th centuries. By the end of the 19th century the category of black and white art commonly appeared alongside more traditional forms of drawing in Australian art exhibitions. See A. Sayers, Drawing in Australia: Drawings, Water-Colours, Pastels and Collages from the 1770s to the 1980s, Canberra, 1989, pp. 115–24. Pollice verso depicted

a steep hillside on the left, dark in tone, with a cross on its crest, to which is attached a miserable figure with head down-bent in the extremity of defeat. The darkness merges into a lighted sky [and] … mounting an opposite hill on the right, comes a troop of soldiers and women, with youthful bacchanals. Most are on foot; but at the rear of the march horses are seen, and a jolly figure of Bacchus bestrides an ass … As the procession passes the cross, the figures look back derisively with outstretched arms and turn down their thumbs.3 A. G. Stephens, Bulletin, 15 September 1904, ‘The Red Page’.

 The Latin title of the drawing, which translates as ‘thumbs down’, would have been easily understood by an early-twentieth-century audience familiar with classical history and language. So too the meaning of the gesture, which was the signal indicating death of the vanquished gladiator given by spectators in ancient Rome, would have been startlingly clear. Not surprisingly, the blasphemous nature of the drawing’s subject provoked an immediate response among visitors to the exhibition which was forcefully articulated by writers in the local newspapers:

In the black and white class Mr Norman Lindsay’s work is beyond praise … It is positively wonderful, and that is probably why the selection committee could not make up its mind to reject the work. But the subjects suggest an artist with an imagination in an advanced stage of decomposition.4Daily Telegraph, 5 September 1904, p. 6.

 And in The Sydney Morning Herald:

Mr Norman Lindsay may ultimately make a name as great as Phil May’s, but the preference which he here manifests for depicting only the bestial types of humanity is difficult to understand. It renders many of his drawings, including the one under review, distinctly objectionable.5 Sydney Morning Herald, 5 September 1904, p. 3.

 The selection committee’s decision to ‘sky’ Pollice verso,6 ‘There is no such element in the drawing that has been “skied” at the present exhibition’. Stephens, ‘The Red Page’. hanging it high on the walls of the gallery and thus obscuring a clear view of its subject, suggests that despite their assessment of it as a good example of black and white art, they were conscious of its provocative content. The extent to which Pollice verso offended the wider population was reflected in a long poem, composed by a parson, which fervently denounced the drawing, each stanza ending with the lines: ‘Never since Man saw the face of the Devil Have been such creations of absolute evil’.7 Quoted in J. Hetherington, Norman Lindsay: The Embattled Olympian, Melbourne, 1973, p. 58. Pollice verso was an ambitious work by the young artist, unusually large in scale and complex in composition. It was drawn in pen and ink using a technique recently developed by Lindsay that incorporated a highly-worked series of lines, parallel, cross-hatched and of varying thickness, which enabled the depiction of light and shade and realistic treatment of three-dimensional forms. Norman’s younger brother, Daryl, later wrote:

While Norman was pouring out masses of cartoons and illustrations for the Bulletin and Lone Hand, he was experimenting and developing a new technique in pen drawing that would give it both tone and weight as opposed to his earlier work in almost pure line. He was really entering the field of the tonal painter with a full range of colours in oils but doing it in black and white with a pen instead of a brush.8 D. Lindsay, The Leafy Tree: My Family, London, 1965, p. 56.

This feature of the drawing was not lost on the critics:

The composition is treated with a fine knowledge of chiaroscuro (generally lacked by modern artists) … The drawing is excellent, and distinguished by none of the rather opulent but careless draughtsmanship Mr. Lindsay has occasionally given us, and is a great increase in power upon previous work. To tackle such a large drawing with that most difficult instrument the pen, and bring it to a successful conclusion, is an achievement …9 Unidentified review of the Royal Art Society exhibition, September 1904, Bernard Hall Archives, copy in the National Gallery of Victoria Library.

While the technical qualities of Lindsay’s drawing generally received positive comment, a number of critics took issue with what they perceived as flaws in the young and essentially self-taught artist’s style. The reviewer for The Sydney Mail wrote, ‘The picture attracting the most attention is Mr. Norman Lindsay’s “Pollice Verso” … It is intensely powerful, an example of the young artist’s genius, yet, despite its power, marred by some bad drawing’.10 Sydney Mail, 7 September 1904, p. 581. A. G. Stephens, editor of The Bulletin and a great supporter of Lindsay and his work, went further in his comments, suggesting a course of action which the young artist might adopt in order to improve and refine his work. Although impressed by the bravura of Lindsay’s penmanship, he was also conscious of the shortcomings it sometimes disguised and summed up the varying responses to the drawing, writing:

Pollice Verso is a bad picture, a good drawing and a magnificent piece of pen-work … Lindsay grows every year more ingenious, more interesting, and more wonderful … In his power of suggesting colour, for example, he has gone beyond his draughtsmanship. Plainly he needs a year or two spent in sedulous work from life under such a master as Bernard Hall. The enormous or distorted arms, the monotonous and sometimes careless eyes, the frequent lack of truth or subtlety in hands and feet, the failures in foreshortening, the uncertainty of perspective: all these are blots that need labour with the model to remove … The labour in the drawing is very great; the talent that is exhibited reaches genius.11Stephens, ‘The Red Page’.

 Despite his vacillation between criticism of Lindsay’s style and over-excited praise, Stephens could not ignore the subject of Pollice verso. He continued:

This and similar flaws, however, have nothing to do with the main faults of Lindsay’s later work. These are two, vulgarity and violence … ‘Pollice Verso’ is tainted with vulgarity as a picture because … it embodies the attitude of Boanerges – the tub-thumper [a term meaning ‘sons of thunder’ used in Biblical references to describe the tempers of James and John]. The violence is in the excessive belittlement of the ascetic figure on the cross, the excessive glorification of the ideals of strength and beauty in the opposing figures; and in such caricature notes as the turning down of the leopard’s tail in sympathy with the down-turned thumbs. Neither violence nor vulgarity affects the drawing, but they certainly alter the art.12 ibid.

Lindsay was so taken aback by the frenzied force of the response to his work that he published a defence of the drawing on ‘The Red Page’ of The Bulletin less than two weeks after the opening of the exhibition. While this episode contributed to Lindsay’s decision to ‘get some control over the idiom of prose’ and train himself to write, setting the scene for future novels: A Curate in Bohemia, 1913, the controversial Redheap, 1930, and the beloved children’s fantasy, The Magic Pudding, 1918, among others, the inexperienced and perhaps somewhat bewildered artist asked his older brother, Lionel, to compose the response.13 ‘I was given another impetus towards trying to get some control over the idiom of prose by the first attacks on my work, which were over that pen drawing, “Pollice Verso”. They aroused in me a conviction that if I was to expect attacks on those terms, I must learn how to defend myself against them, and I was very badly equipped to do so … Lionel always had an easy facility in verse and prose … So I appealed to his pen for a defence of the “Pollice Verso”, which he did in a brief article in the Bulletin “Red Page”, which was signed by me.’ N. Lindsay, My Mask: An Autobiography, Sydney, 1970, p. 230. Regardless of its authorship, the letter’s self-righteous, polemical and occasionally sarcastic tone sits comfortably alongside Norman’s own spirited, later writings. For what it tells us about his eccentric personal philosophy and renunciation of Christianity, it is worth quoting at length:

My pen picture, ‘Pollice Verso’, exhibited this year at the Art Society, has called forth as usual that generous burst of noble indignation I expected.

For myself, I think this noble indignation to be partly assumed, partly cultured ignorance, and a small part foolish sincerity. It has almost become proverbial to say of anything I do that it is brutal, pornographic, and degenerate; pretty words that must be highly gratifying to the vanity of those who employ them. But the root of the whole matter lies in the fact that my work is a departure from sentimentality, pretty fatuities and the artthat has its standard set in the approval of the innocent (?) school girl.

But to come to the motive of the drawing. It is simply a statement of my belief in animal force, the right of the healthy and the strong over the weak and the ill constituted, the Saturnalia that is a part of all ascending life and indeed, all that can be expressed by the word reality. All those qualities the ancient world understood as simple matters, because it believed unquestionably in its instincts, but which the modern mind, hedged about with half-truths and sentimentalities, instinctively knows to be its enemies. I may here say that the figure on the cross is not necessarily the one and only Calvary that the unhistorical mind seems to have grasped. It represents the ascetic belief, the ideal of negation, and the hatred of too strong and abundant life. That its exponents have been identified with Christianity is not my affair. My quarrel is not with them personally but specifically, because I consider strong human life the infinite superior of anything weak that is called divine.

 I blandly hope I shall not be mistaken for a reformer. I desire only to make articulate the Dionysan [sic] belief in the absolute, and the eternal surfaces of things. That is all I care to understand or think about.

 I can quite understand why my work is so totally antithetical to modern lack of thought. I believe I appear to these gentle feeble darlings – the cultured mob – as a reviler of their hearths and wearing the general appearance of an anarchist.

 The only explanation of this attitude of mind is to be found in what must be the real moral instinct of my work.14 Bulletin, 15 September 1904, ‘The Red Page’.

 The editors of The Bulletin were besieged with demands from outraged readers and advertisers to remove the blasphemous Lindsay from their staff.15 Hetherington, pp. 58–9. They continued to support their employee, however, and early the following year, published an explanatory interpretation of Pollice verso beneath a small reproduction, in an attempt to placate their angry clientele. Although the statement followed Lindsay’s own line of defence, it was written in significantly more reasonable terms and adopted a safe middle course, arguing both for and against the drawing:

POLLICE VERSO – a black-and-white by Norman Lindsay … which set many tongues clacking and pens scratching in Australia. Hailed enthusiastically as a masterpiece … by some critics, it was condemned with even greater fervor by others … Justification for the praise it won will be found promptly. Reason for the blame may seem, too, at first apparent. But the work calls for explanation rather than apology. There is no intention to represent the Crucifixion. The crucified figure is the symbol of asceticism; the rout of revellers of Epicureanism. A crucifixion might have been used by a Pagan painter long before the Christian era, and may be used to-day without raising the question … But – a point which the uneasy moralists have over-looked – the picture presents the challenge of Pleasure to Asceticism, but not necessarily Pleasure’s victory. The joy of life is set in bright light (such bright light – truly wonderful in technique!) against the pangs of death. Yet, for all that is said by the work to the contrary, the palm may be with that stubborn figure in the gloom.16 Bulletin, 16 February 1905, p. 12.

 Melbourne 1907

Three years after the storm over Pollice verso in Sydney, Lindsay sent it to Melbourne for display in the Sydney Society of Artists’ First Melbourne Exhibition, which opened at the Guild Hall in Swanston Street on 25 October 1907. Reviewing the exhibition the day before it opened, the Argus critic wrote:

The show is a very strong one … and this makes it all the more regrettable that at least half a dozen works should have been hung that can only be described as grossly and offensively suggestive.17 Argus, 24 October 1907, p.4.

 It is unclear whether the writer considered Lindsay’s drawing as one of these half dozen works, as the review goes on to say:

The work of the brothers Norman and Lionel Lindsay is thoroughly characteristic, fearless in execution, and rich in colour … Norman Lindsay, like his brother, is striving for the light, many of his black-and-white drawings accomplishing great things, and promising a famous career as an itlustrator.18 ibid.

 Whether Lindsay anticipated another furore over the indecent and blasphemous subject of the drawing, or credited the Melbourne public with a more liberal attitude, is not known. Regardless of his intention, however, Lindsay must have been pleasantly surprised by its reception. Although there was some commentary in the local press which reflected disapproval of the subject matter of his work, as well as the public’s fascination with the man himself,19 For example, in the gossipy ‘Ladies’ letter’ column of Punch, 31 October 1907, p. 648; ‘I went to the Norman Lindsay show last Thursday. He was there in flesh and in caricature, too … There were many lady enthusiasts who posed before the Casanova pictures and exclaimed things … A lady from the country somehow got in, and was shocked. “I should just like to see that Norman Lindsay.” “There he is, madam,” said the artist, pointing to his brother. “Indeed, I thought he was much uglier than that!” For once Norman felt squashed.’ And, in an unpublished article, the artist-and critic Blamire Young wrote, ‘There was no question about the warmth of the welcome that Melbourne extended to the Sydney artists, and in spite of the fact that some few growls were heard at the nature of his subjects it was Norman Lindsay that was accepted as the leader of the band’. Manuscript published in E. Fink, ‘Norman Lindsay as seen by Blamire Young 1907’ in La Trobe Library Journal, vol. 6, no. 23, April 1979, pp. 58–60. the most notable response was a flurry of letters written to the editor of the Argus newspaper which debated the particulars of classical history and whether Lindsay had interpreted it correctly.20 See J. H. T.; E. Wilson Dobbs; J. H. B. Curtis; ‘Verax’; Alex Leeper; S. C. T.; Professor T. G. Tucker and J. L. R., letters to the editor Argus, 7–19 November 1907, compiled in, Newspaper Clipping Books, LTM92 Microfilm Collection, State Library of Victoria.

Most astounding for Lindsay was the fact that Pollice verso was purchased from the exhibition by the Trustees of the National Gallery of Victoria for the extraordinary sum of 157 guineas and 10 shillings.21 While contemporary newspaper reports and subsequent publications quote the purchase price as 150 guineas, it is recorded as 157 guineas and 10 shillings in both the 1907 Report of the Trustees of the Public Library, Museums, and National Gallery of Victoria and the NGV Stock Book. He later described the unusual way in which this figure was determined. ‘I did not put a price on the drawing; only a lunatic optimism could expect to sell a work of that sort in a community indifferent even to works otherwise saleable.’ Upon visiting the exhibition, Lindsay was told that the Gallery Trustees were considering purchasing the drawing and instructed Lothian, the man in charge of the exhibition, to ‘ask any damn price you like’ for the work, incredulous at the possibility. On his next visit, Lindsay ‘was to be stunned by the news that the trustees had bought the picture. And for the staggering price of £150, which Lothian’s audacity had asked for it’.22 N. Lindsay, pp. 180–1. The fact that the drawing was priced at 50 guineas in the Sydney exhibition only three years earlier23 Royal Art Society of N.S.W. 25th Annual Exhibition (exh. cat.), Sydney, 1904, cat. no. 280, price 50 guineas. made this even more surprising.

While this sum constituted an acknowledgement of Lindsay’s youthful mastery of graphic techniques, it also represented a validation of the pen and ink medium which, as the domain of the commercial illustrator, had traditionally been relegated to a lowly position within the artistic hierarchy. The Argus noted:

‘Pollice Verso’ … has been purchased for 150 guineas by the trustees of the National Gallery. This sum is believed to be the highest price paid in Australia for a specimen of black and white work. It will be remembered that the theme of the picture excited some criticism when it was first exhibited in Sydney a year or two ago.24 Argus, 2 November 1907, p. 19.

 As evidence that the price of art has always aroused public interest, the Melbourne Herald wrote:

The sales in connection with the exhibition of pictures by the Sydney Society of Artists … have totalled £500 … The present show contains the finest collection of black and white pictures ever exhibited in Melbourne. Norman Lindsay has cleared £300, half of this amount being the price paid by the National Gallery trustees and the trustees of the Felton Bequest for Pollice Verso, the highest-priced pen and ink drawing ever purchased in Australia.25 Herald, 5 November 1907, p.2.

 In 1904 Bernard Hall, director of the NGV from 1891 to 1935, and an early supporter of Lindsay’s art, had recommended the purchase of

The scoffers, 1903 (fig. 3), for the Gallery’s collection. This drawing, later described by Lionel Lindsay as ‘a prelude to Pollice Verso’ and ‘the most brilliant drawing of the period’ in which Norman gave ‘his mental proclivities free expression’,26 L. Lindsay, ‘Norman Lindsay: his inspiration and technique’ in The Pen Drawings of Norman Lindsay, Sydney, 1918, (Special Number of Art in Australia), unpaginated. was regarded by the Trustees as ‘too unconventional’27 The Lone Hand, February 1910, p. 358, quoted in Norman Lindsay Centenary Exhibition of Graphic Art (exh. cat.), Newcastle Region Art Gallery, Newcastle, 1979, p. 12. and rejected in favour of a safer example.28Hall bought The scoffers for his personal collection. In 1935 the NGV purchased it through the Felton Bequest. Lacking any suggestive imagery or potentially offensive elements, My ancestors, 1903 (fig. 4), was purchased instead. A self-portrait depicting the artist fleeing from a terrifying crowd, it was the first drawing by Lindsay to be acquired for a major public collection. Given this history and the impossibility of the trustees being unaware of the 1904 controversy in Sydney, Hall’s success in convincing the trustees to purchase Pollice verso only three years later, is both impressive and mysterious. The fact that the NGV’s recent purchase of The bent tree (morning) (Ville d’Avray, Bouleau Pond), c. 1855–60, by Corot, was the subject of much criticism and discussion in the local press may have, in part, deflected attention away from the acquisition of Lindsay’s drawing.29 See Newspaper Clipping Books, LTM92, November 1907, Microfilm Collection, State Library of Victoria.

Lindsay himself was delighted and astonished, writing in a characteristically cynical tone to Hall:

Thanks very much for your pleasant letter of congratulation. I was vastly astonished myself at the news – chiefly on account of the subject of Pollice Verso which seemed such an impossible one from the average trustees point of view – that is, if the average Trustee has a point of view at all – which is open to doubt.

I entirely agree with you as to the merits of the picture. I don’t at all think it is up to some of my later stuff in treatment, though I won’t say that I am sorry to have it hung in the Gallery – I am such an inveterate tub-thumper on what I consider to be my beliefs – I know an artist should not have such things – that I cannot but welcome the opportunity of [seeing] them abound on the walls of the dear old Melbourne Gallery.

 By the way – I’m in fearful hot water here among the Brethren on account of the sales, the general impression apparently being that I mesmerised the Melb. Public and sold them my own work before they awoke from the trance.30 Letter from Norman Lindsay to Bernard Hall, c. November 1907, Bernard Hall Archives, copy in the National Gallery of Victoria Library.

 While the wisdom of age and the healing power of time enabled Lindsay to write about the Pollice verso episode in his 1970 autobiography with some humour, the sting of the attack was still keenly felt.31 Lindsay’s biographer noted that ‘a myth persists that Pollice Verso was loudly and stormily denounced in Melbourne, on moral and religious grounds. This appears to be founded on Norman’s own statements and it has no basis in fact. As time passed he evidently telescoped the purchase of the picture in 1907 with the Sydney controversy in 1904, and in his mind these two distinct episodes became one.’ Hetherington, p. 60. Lingering bitterness over the experience, and the many subsequent censorship battles over his work, is apparent in his inaccurate description of the fate of the drawing:

I still can’t divine under what urge those trustees were impelled to acquire that picture, but having got it, they so far recovered their wits as to consign it to the Gallery cellars, where I assume it still is. They would never have dared to exhibit it once the row broke out about the immoral, indecent, and blasphemous nature of my works.32 N. Lindsay, p.101.

 Police verso was in fact exhibited on the NGV’s walls soon after its purchase, remaining on permanent display until at least 1918.33 Pollice verso is noted as being on display in the Stawell Gallery in the 1911 and 1918 Illustrated Catalogue of the National Gallery, The Trustees of the Public Library, Museums, and National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. In recent years it has been displayed on occasion within the National Gallery of Victoria and been lent to external exhibitions.34 For example, Pollice verso was lent to the Norman Lindsay Centenary Exhibition of Graphic Art, curated by Ursula Prunster and shown at the Newcastle Region Art Gallery in 1979, and Federation: Australian Art and Society 1901–2001, curated by John McDonald and shown at the National Gallery of Australia in 2001.

Almost one hundred years on, Norman Lindsay remains a household name throughout Australia. The ongoing popularity of his art is reflected in the prices regularly paid for his drawings, etchings, watercolours and paintings at auction, while the public’s continuing fascination with the man and the legendary Lindsay family is satisfied by a steady stream of books, exhibitions and, on one occasion, a film. Although we are no longer shocked or scandalised by Lindsay’s imagery, he and his work remain something of a hot potato within the world of art scholarship, generally regarded as overblown, embarrassing and decidedly unfashionable.35 To the present author’s knowledge, there has never been a major retrospective exhibition of Norman Lindsay’s entire oeuvre. In addition to the studies published by Ursula Prunster and Joanna Mendelssohn, a notable exception to this lack of critical attention is the recently published article by Jeanette Hoorn, ‘Olympian bodies and cinematic spectacle in the art of Norman Lindsay’ in Art & Australia, vol. 38, no. 1, 2000, pp. 118–27. While documenting the trials and tribulations of the infamous drawing, Pollice verso, highlights the many ways in which moral and religious values have changed in Australia, it also emphasises the importance of artistic freedom of speech and the consistency with which Australian artists have practised and demanded this right during the past one hundred years.

Kirsty Grant, Curator, Prints and Drawings, National Gallery of Victoria (in 2002).

Notes

1     See A. Carroll, Moral Censorship and the Visual Arts in Australia, Melbourne, 1989; and P. Coleman, Obscenity, Blasphemy, Sedition: 100 Years of Censorship in Australia, Sydney 1974.

2     ‘Black and white’ was the name applied to drawings typically made in pen or brush and ink, which illustrated the popular press of the 19th and early 20th centuries. By the end of the 19th century the category of black and white art commonly appeared alongside more traditional forms of drawing in Australian art exhibitions. See A. Sayers, Drawing in Australia: Drawings, Water-Colours, Pastels and Collages from the 1770s to the 1980s,Canberra, 1989, pp. 115–24.

3     A. G. Stephens, Bulletin, 15 September 1904, ‘The Red Page’.

4     Daily Telegraph, 5 September 1904, p. 6.

5     Sydney Morning Herald, 5 September 1904, p. 3.

6     ‘There is no such element in the drawing that has been “skied” at the present exhibition’. Stephens, ‘The Red Page’.

7     Quoted in J. Hetherington, Norman Lindsay: The Embattled Olympian, Melbourne, 1973, p. 58.

8     D. Lindsay, The Leafy Tree: My Family, London, 1965, p. 56.

9     Unidentified review of the Royal Art Society exhibition, September 1904, Bernard Hall Archives, copy in the National Gallery of Victoria Library.

10     Sydney Mail, 7 September 1904, p. 581.

11     Stephens, ‘The Red Page’.

12     ibid.

13     ‘I was given another impetus towards trying to get some control over the idiom of prose by the first attacks on my work, which were over that pen drawing, “Pollice Verso”. They aroused in me a conviction that if I was to expect attacks on those terms, I must learn how to defend myself against them, and I was very badly equipped to do so … Lionel always had an easy facility in verse and prose … So I appealed to his pen for a defence of the “Pollice Verso”, which he did in a brief article in the Bulletin “Red Page”, which was signed by me.’ N. Lindsay, My Mask: An Autobiography, Sydney, 1970, p. 230.

14     Bulletin, 15 September 1904, ‘The Red Page’.

15     Hetherington, pp. 58–9.

16     Bulletin, 16 February 1905, p. 12.

17     Argus, 24 October 1907, p.4.

18     ibid.

19     For example, in the gossipy ‘Ladies’ letter’ column of Punch, 31 October 1907, p. 648; ‘I went to the Norman Lindsay show last Thursday. He was there in flesh and in caricature, too … There were many lady enthusiasts who posed before the Casanova pictures and exclaimed things … A lady from the country somehow got in, and was shocked. “I should just like to see that Norman Lindsay.” “There he is, madam,” said the artist, pointing to his brother. “Indeed, I thought he was much uglier than that!” For once Norman felt squashed.’ And, in an unpublished article, the artist-and critic Blamire Young wrote, ‘There was no question about the warmth of the welcome that Melbourne extended to the Sydney artists, and in spite of the fact that some few growls were heard at the nature of his subjects it was Norman Lindsay that was accepted as the leader of the band’. Manuscript published in E. Fink, ‘Norman Lindsay as seen by Blamire Young 1907’ in La Trobe Library Journal, vol. 6, no. 23, April 1979, pp. 58–60.

20     See J. H. T.; E. Wilson Dobbs; J. H. B. Curtis; ‘Verax’; Alex Leeper; S. C. T.; Professor T. G. Tucker and J. L. R., letters to the editor Argus, 7–19 November 1907, compiled in, Newspaper Clipping Books, LTM92 Microfilm Collection, State Library of Victoria.

21     While contemporary newspaper reports and subsequent publications quote the purchase price as 150 guineas, it is recorded as 157 guineas and 10 shillings in both the 1907 Report of the Trustees of the Public Library, Museums, and National Gallery of Victoria and the NGV Stock Book.

22     N. Lindsay, pp. 180–1.

23     Royal Art Society of N.S.W. 25th Annual Exhibition (exh. cat.), Sydney, 1904, cat. no. 280, price 50 guineas.

24     Argus, 2 November 1907, p. 19.

25     Herald, 5 November 1907, p.2.

26     L. Lindsay, ‘Norman Lindsay: his inspiration and technique’ in The Pen Drawings of Norman Lindsay, Sydney, 1918, (Special Number of Art in Australia), unpaginated.

27     The Lone Hand, February 1910, p. 358, quoted in Norman Lindsay Centenary Exhibition of Graphic Art (exh. cat.), Newcastle Region Art Gallery, Newcastle, 1979, p. 12.

28     Hall bought The scoffers for his personal collection. In 1935 the NGV purchased it through the Felton Bequest.

29     See Newspaper Clipping Books, LTM92, November 1907, Microfilm Collection, State Library of Victoria.

30     Letter from Norman Lindsay to Bernard Hall, c. November 1907, Bernard Hall Archives, copy in the National Gallery of Victoria Library.

31     Lindsay’s biographer noted that ‘a myth persists that Pollice Verso was loudly and stormily denounced in Melbourne, on moral and religious grounds. This appears to be founded on Norman’s own statements and it has no basis in fact. As time passed he evidently telescoped the purchase of the picture in 1907 with the Sydney controversy in 1904, and in his mind these two distinct episodes became one.’ Hetherington, p. 60.

32     N. Lindsay, p.101.

33     Pollice verso is noted as being on display in the Stawell Gallery in the 1911 and 1918 Illustrated Catalogue of the National Gallery, The Trustees of the Public Library, Museums, and National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.

34     For example, Pollice verso was lent to the Norman Lindsay Centenary Exhibition of Graphic Art, curated by Ursula Prunster and shown at the Newcastle Region Art Gallery in 1979, and Federation: Australian Art and Society 1901–2001, curated by John McDonald and shown at the National Gallery of Australia in 2001.

35     To the present author’s knowledge, there has never been a major retrospective exhibition of Norman Lindsay’s entire oeuvre. In addition to the studies published by Ursula Prunster and Joanna Mendelssohn, a notable exception to this lack of critical attention is the recently published article by Jeanette Hoorn, ‘Olympian bodies and cinematic spectacle in the art of Norman Lindsay’ in Art & Australia, vol. 38, no. 1, 2000, pp. 118–27.