Summer Reverie 1938 signed and dated 'NORMAN LINDSAY / 1938' lower right oil on canvas 76.0 x 88.5cm (29 15/16 x 34 13/16in).
PROVENANCE The artist Thence by descent To his daughter, Jane Glad, Sydney Art Works from the Estate of the Late Jane Glad, Daughter of Norman Lindsay, Warren J Elstub, Sydney, 26 June 2000, lot 98 Private collection, Sydney
LITERATURE Michael Reid, 'Neuter Norman Lindsay at Your Peril', Weekend Australian, Sydney, 15-16 July 2000, p.37
While the name Norman Lindsay and voluptuous women are synonymous, he was really something of a white knight in shining armour, the female form being his powerfully seductive weapon in a lifelong fight against prudery. Nevertheless, he delighted in the hedonistic, expressed through the beauty of the human figure full of sensuous enticement. Moreover, as the writer Douglas Stewart observed, 'He paints women as if they were goddesses.' 1 Lindsay's female figures are often imaginatively derived from classical sources, styled for the present, as suggested by the two in Summer Reverie 1938 set in a secluded glade. While classically inclined in pose, they are very much based on flesh and blood. The model for the figure to the left is the exotically beautiful Rita. Languorous of body, richly dark hair and olive of skin, she was Lindsay's favourite model for oil paintings during the period 1936 to 1942. Aesthetically, he was in her thrall, writing in his autobiography, 'She had the loveliest breasts I ever painted from...'. 2 Her presentation in Summer Reverie is derived from another oil painting, Rita in the Shade. 3 Back viewed in profile, she is similarly seated in a leafy glade, (a reference to the idyllic as in the Garden of Eden), the play of sunlight across her figure identical to that in our painting. The only significant difference in Summer Reverie is the adjustment of the left leg to give better profile to her magnificent bosom.
While the identity of the other figure is unknown, she is reminiscent of Rose, Lindsay's second wife. Rose featured in his works for over twenty-five years as his most popular model. Junoesque in appearance, she was sensuously curvaceous and faired-haired. Lindsay commented, '... as the feminine image was the central motif of my work, [Rose] dramatized it for me in the flesh under terms which involved me in all its emotional complexities, lyrical and demonical.' 4 As in our painting, Lindsay often delighted in comparing the blonde and the brunette, even naming one of his etchings accordingly. The importance of the blonde figure in Summer Reverie was such that Lindsay made a special pencil study for it, using the same model who personified autumn in the related 1937 oil painting of that name. 5 The oils share the feeling of plenitude and fecundity within an intimate setting. The play of dappled light across the luxuriant figures encourages the eye to do the same, exciting mind and senses. By this and other means Lindsay generously shares his delight in female flesh with his viewer. While his naked figures celebrate nudity in all its physical beauty, the lure of women, the femme fatale is ever present. Ravishing beauty is the trap to ensnare. Michael Reid wrote, 'The fact is, in terms of his intentions, the best Lindsays are often frank displays of his utopian sexuality. In his large oil, Summer Reverie 1938, the overt sexuality is entirely consistent with Lindsay's philosophical beliefs. So the juxtaposition of the mocking apple, a Christian symbol for temptation and downfall. ... the work is intellectually reflective of Lindsay's intentions.' 6 The apple, however, is much more embracing in its symbolism with a history encompassing not only Christianity, but also Greek and Roman mythology, and folklore. For Lindsay, the provocative pose and enticing position of the apple speaks not of the forbidden fruit, but of an invitation to pleasure and enjoyment of the fruits of life. As a symbol of love and sexuality, the apple is likewise associated with the greatest beauty, of Venus and Helen of Troy.
1. Douglas Stewart, 'The Flesh and the Spirit', in Norman Lindsay & Douglas Stewart, Paintings in Oil: Norman Lindsay, Shepherd Press, Sydney, 1945, no pagination 2. Norman Lindsay, My Mask: For what little I know of the man behind it, an autobiography, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1970, p.241 3. See Deutscher-Menzies 13 March 2007, lot 37 (illus.) 4. Lindsay, My Mask... , op. cit., p.175-6 5. Summer Reverie Study for the oil painting 1938, p encil on paper , 36 x 26 cm, unsigned 6. Michael Reid, op., cit., p.37