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A Collector's Guide to the Works of Norman Lindsay

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A Collector's Guide to the Works of Norman Lindsay

 

One of Australia’s most successful and iconic artists, Norman Lindsay’s (b.1879 - d. 1969) works are instantly recognisable - between his irreverent characters, whimsical stylings and charismatic linework, Lindsay’s works are widely collected both nationally and internationally. 

From his studio - with the help of his second wife, Rose - he produced oils, watercolours, etchings, ink and pencil sketches, prints, sculptures and wrote prolifically. His works covered the gamut of themes available, creating intimate portraits of various models, raucous etchings of 18th century style court scenes, and charming sketches of cats. There’s something for everyone in the works of Norman Lindsay, and his art provides an excellent starting point for the beginning collector or the seasoned dealer, with interest in his images staying strong across the decades.

Our handy guide will run you through what you need to know before buying!

 

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[Above: Lot 185, A Norman Lindsay Etching 'Angels and Demons', sold for $1,400 AUD at The Auction Barn]

What should I be looking for when it comes to a Norman Lindsay?

As with many artists, the key to finding a piece that fits into your budget is to look at the medium, the rarity, and the authenticity. When it comes to mediums, most of Lindsay’s prints are in one of three categories: 

 

Etchings

Etchings are works created by the placing of a plate, with an acid-etched then ink-filled image, upon a paper surface, leaving those delicate inks behind. With repeated uses, the plate becomes worn and the fine lines less distinct, so are usually produced in limited quantities before the plate degrades. Lindsay and Rose produced many excellent original, limited edition etchings within his life - with at least 500 etching plates known - and each should be editioned, signed, and titled under the plate margin, which is the embossed line formed on the paper when the plate is pressed against during the printing process. Because there was only a limited amount of images able to reproduced from a single plate, many editions were restricted only to 200 - 300 pieces. Depending on the size, number, condition and the rarity of the etching, prices tend to begin at $3,000 - 5,000 AUD. 

Not all etchings were made within Lindsay’s lifetime. ‘Facsimilie Etchings’ produced later under the supervision of his estate and the Lindsay specialists Odana Bloomfield, are of a similarly high quality to the original etchings produced by Lindsay himself. Ideally these pieces are accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by Odana Bloomfield or an authorised gallery. A small facsimile etching starts at around $400, and can increase to around $3,000 for the rarest and largest examples, with the majority hovering around $1,800.

Prints

Prints - the most accessible of Lindsay’s works and perhaps the best way to own a full-colour piece without the hefty pricetag - come in many shapes, sizes, and quality levels.

With many of Lindsay’s works featuring delicate and fairy-like watercolour palettes or rich oil impastos, a print can be an effective way to brighten a space. Depending on who owns the rights - the estate, a private owner, or a public institution - some images, like etchings, can be rarer than others. 

Potential buyers should be aware of prints and their quality. Not always held to the same standards of etchings, prints can range from simple reprints on poster stock to colour plates taken from books or limited edition high-resolution pieces with certificates. The highest quality of print will be called a ‘giclee’ or a lithographic print, referring to the method of production that produces the best quality reproductions possible. 

If possible, always view the piece in person, inspect the borders and edges, and the back of the work. Look with a magnifying glass for the quality of the paper and the colours, and for damage - fading, foxing, or dust. And remember that a frame is worth just as much as an image in some cases; so a piece with a poor quality or ill fitting frame at auction might look a million bucks with a different frame! The cheapest prints can be as little as $20, and as expensive as $1,000

 

Original Works 

The pinnacle of a Lindsay collector’s collection will always be to own an original work by the artist’s own hand. Conveniently for the modern buyer, Lindsay was incredibly prolific, and spent almost all his time in the production of art. This means there is no shortage of sketches, pen and ink drawings, or oil and watercolour paintings on the market with a healthy amount on the market at any time. With each piece an individual, it is much harder to ascertain a value. Here’s some things to consider when buying a Lindsay or any other original work by an artist:

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      • Does the work have provenance or paperwork? Is there a signature or any sort of writing attributable to Lindsay?
      • How’s the condition? Will it need more money spent on it to restore or stabilise it?
      • Is the work derived from another, ie. a study sketch for a popular work, or an identified model?
      • Is the work large or small, complicated or simple?
      • Do you like it? Buying for investment is one thing, but making it a part of your home is also an investment in time, space, and taking care of the piece. 
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[Above: Norman Lindsay Bookplate Print 'Under the Stars', sold for $100 at The Auction Barn]

 

How do I know my piece is legitimate? How do I research my piece?

As one of Australia’s most prolific artists, as well as one of the most reproduced, it’s not hard to find a Norman Lindsay artwork in the wild: whether it be in a gallery, a fine home, or for sale at auction. If you can determine the medium of the piece, and see that the quality is good, it might be a good piece for your home or collection!

It’s always worth checking the back of an art piece or asking about the provenance. Where was it bought? Does it have any paperwork from a gallery or the publisher? Does it have any significant markings, such as numbers, signatures, or other information? Even the quality of the frame can indicate how much money the original piece cost!

To identify a specific title or origin, browsing through online collections, sales history, or catalogue raisonnes can all help you narrow down your search. Consulting a gallery or auction house can also give experts a chance to take a look and give you advice on how to proceed. At The Auction Barn, we offer free appraisals in person or via email, but can also offer paid assessment or valuation of the item, including documentation. 

For Lindsay research, we recommend the Australian Art Sales Digest, Odana Bloomfield’s website, or the following texts:

‘Norman Lindsay Etchings: Catalogue Raisonne’, by Lin Bloomfield, c.1999, Odana Editions & Josef Lebovic Gallery; Sydney, Australia

‘Norman Lindsay Watercolours, 1897 - 1969’ by Lin Bloomfield, c.2003, Odana Editions; Sydney, Australia

 

Are some Lindsays rarer than others? 

Yes! There are many factors that contribute to the rarity of a Lindsay. Perhaps the original etching plate was lost - sixteen crates of original works were seized and destroyed by American authorities in 1939 - or there just weren’t that many made in the first place. The more popular images by Lindsay, such as Lady and Parrot, are more likely to be reproduced multiple times, whilst pieces like Leda are reissued much less often. 

Of course, one-off works such as watercolours, sketches, and oil paintings are the most unique. Many of his models - such as Rose Lindsay and Rita Lee - feature repeatedly in his works, as do many themes, such as the pair of beauties in white and black seen in The Eighties, his enigmatic witches and hedonistic pagan scenes. Identifying the themes and medium you like most might help you narrow down the kind of piece to look for.

 

If you’re interested in buying a Lindsay work from our showrooms or selling a piece on, our experienced staff can assist. For other helpful guides and more articles on the world of collecting, see our other blogs, including How to Identify Uranium Glass!

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