Lionel

Lionel is one of Australia’s greatest artists who revitalised the artist’s print and made it a thing of value to Australian collectors. In 1974, in a foreword for the Centenary Exhibition of Lionel’s art at the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery, Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies wrote that Lionel was a great conversationalist, a great scholar and “at his prime he would have been regarded as the best wood cutter in the world, and his pure line etching and drypoint were always a joy, and he did them with great precision.” Lionel is also noted for his brilliant watercolours and his writing on art.

Born in 1874, he was the third of ten children of Dr Robert and Jane Lindsay.

When J. Miller Marshall came to Creswick in 1893, Lionel studied watercolour with him and wrote in his autobiography “it was all very exciting, and played a leading role in our destinies.” He developed an interest in etching about 1895 when there was an exhibition of etching by Shirlow in Melbourne.

Lionel drew black and white work for periodicals in Melbourne including the Outpost, the Hawklett, the Free Lance, the Clarion, Arena, Tocsin and the Weekly Times. He also joined the National Gallery School and in 1897-98 shared a cottage near Heidelberg with his brother Norman and artist Ernest Moffit. He moved to Sydney, then Brisbane and back to Melbourne and in 1902 he set sail for Europe. When in Spain he developed bronchitis, went to England and returned home to Australia via Italy. In Italy he met up with Jean Dyson, sister of Will Dyson who was later to marry Lionel’s sister Ruby. Lionel and Jean married in Australia in 1903.

Inspired by the Rocks area of Sydney which were being demolished, he sketched and produced etchings of old Sydney. He loved to learn and explore new techniques and was the first person in Australia (in 1906) to develop and print colour photographs. He started wood engraving and in 1922 published A Book of Woodcuts, the first of its kind in Australia. He also worked in oils, continued his career with journals, and was a trustee of the Art Gallery of New South Wales from 1918-29 and again from 1934-49.

Lionel returned to Europe and Britain in 1928 to do a ‘Spanish show’ and returned to Australia in 1930 via North Africa and India. His career in both London and Australia flourished and in 1933 he again left for Europe, returning to Australia in 1934. Lionel was knighted in 1941, for his services to Australian art.

He was also the author of several books including Etchings and Drypoints of Spain and Australia (1927), Addled Art (1942), and a Comedy of Life: an autobiography (1967).

Lionel died in Sydney in 1961.

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