If you’re not Australian you may not have heard of Norman Lindsay but you may have seen the 1994 film Sirens with Sam Neill, Portia di Rossi and Elle Macpherson? As Mr Wandering Kiwi said: “Oh yeah the film with the naked women.” Does that jog your memory?
For people looking for a day or weekend trip out of Sydney the Blue Mountains is probably the number one choice and the Norman Lindsay Gallery and Museum in Faulconbridge ought to be the first stop on any traveller’s tour of the Blue Mountains.
Lindsay was a successful artist and writer in his own lifetime and he and his wife Rose Soady purchased the Faulconbridge house in 1913. They transformed ‘Springwood’ both cottage and grounds into a reflection of his passion for the artistic traditions of the Mediterranean.
My grandmother was from Australia and was introduced to Lindsay’s famous children’s’ book The Magic Pudding at a young age. This tale of Bunyip Bluegum and Albert the perpetually scowling cut-and-come-again pudding is full of brilliant language and illustration and the museum includes a collection of drawings.
What is more interesting than the gallery is Norman Lindsay’s oil painting studio, with his bookshelves of European classics and his jacket still hanging up. He had to defend his work against accusations of blasphemy against the ‘wowsers’ of the day.
But for me the garden was the star. Visiting in September (the southern Spring), the long verandah is loaded with purple and fragrant wisteria. You can catch the scent even as you walk down through the garden to the now grassed over bathing pool. Lindsay created the concrete or bronze moulded statues and fountains – nymphs and goddesses cavort at every turn. We had a lovely picnic under a tree and lazed on the warm grass.
It was easy to visualise the marvellous parties thrown by Rose here, with dancing on the lawn and famous guests from Australia’s arts scene such as opera diva Dame Nellie Melba and feminist writer Miles Franklin (she wrote My Brilliant Career). And I couldn’t help thinking what a wonderful wedding venue near Sydney this would be, or for any type of party really, if you fancy re-creating a little inter-war decadence.
By Natasha von Geldern
Admission to the Norman Lindsay Gallery and Museum is $12 for adults and $6 for children. You can only see the studios on a free tour. There is now a quite decent cafe nearby and apparently you can stay overnight in cottage accommodation.