Wednesday 20 March 2013

A nice naked lady or two!

A few weeks ago, I dropped in to the Lindsay Gallery to sit and think, to look and to contemplate.

In front of me and all around were the fruits of the fantastic Lindsay family, Norman’s lush nudes, a cabinet full of Ruby’s art nouveau drawings and designs, and fine examples of the draughtmanship and print-making of Percy, Lionel and Daryl.

Impressive. And I began to wonder how little turn-of-the-century Creswick coped with all this, especially with what reportedly were the wild goings-on at the Lindsay household. I know Creswick are, rightly, proud of the Lindsay family now.

One of Norman Lindsay’s paintings is called “Benediction” (which means blessing) so that led into this light-hearted poem as my introduction to my tenure as Poet in Residence at the Art Gallery of Ballarat.
(Benediction n. The act of blessing or invoking a blessing . . .)

What a blessing they were to Norman
How these belles in full flesh were his joy
With just a gesture at narrative function
A satyr or two and a boy.

His models all glowing and healthy
With no trace of any fig leaf
‘No nudes is good nudes’ was clearly
Not part of Lindsay’s belief.

In the family too - art nouveau Ruby
Rose with her dark Spanish pouts
And Percy and Lionel and Darryl
With landscapes and townscapes and boats.

What would they have wondered in Creswick
Of the fey Lindsay clan and their ways
How the strangest of creatures came calling
And the wild goings-on of their days.

But men downing pots in the barrooms
Though they would not have said it aloud
Felt the envy behind the guffawing
They mocked but were secretly proud.

And all the dear ladies of Creswick
With their doilies and fine Wedgwood cups
Could barely suppress a wee frisson
Of excitement behind their tut-tuts.

Oh, what would we give to be part of
That artistic Bohemian crew
Endowed with a richness of talent
And a nice naked lady or two!

-Barry Breen, March 2013

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