The Legendary Lindsay’s

The Lindsay family of Creswick established itself as one of Australia’s leading artistic families. In one generation there were five siblings who went on to become recognised professional artists: Percy, Lionel, Norman, Ruby and Daryl. Marriage increased this recognition when Ruby married artist Will Dyson and Daryl married artist and writer Joan Lindsay. Their influence spanned the period from the 1890s to the 1960s-1970s and not only as artists. They also wrote on art in newspapers, magazines, journals and books and helped influence opinions of the Australian public. Daryl also became an art gallery director, and Lionel was a Trustee of the Art Gallery of NSW. Norman wrote several books as well as being an artist, and other members of the family were part of the family ‘art business’.

Father of the famous siblings was Dr Robert Lindsay who arrived in Creswick in 1864 from Ireland. He was a good physician, a great character about the town, well-educated, read the classics and liked the pleasures of the table. He also liked good conversation, a trait which he passed on to his children.

Robert married Jane Williams, the daughter of Reverend Thomas Williams. Jane was born in Fiji, deeply religious and displayed some musical talent. She was also very capable and as well as raising their ten children, she sometimes helped her husband with emergency medical matters.

Much of the inspiration and aesthetic sensibility in the Lindsay children was credited to their maternal grandfather, Reverend Williams. He went from England to Fiji as a missionary in 1840, survived the trials of life and local hostilities, wrote a seminal book, Fiji and the Fijians and came to Australia with his family in 1854. His passion for art and literature and his visits with his grandchildren to the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery, engendered in the Lindsay children an everlasting interest in art.

The town of Creswick offered many diversions for the Lindsay siblings as they wandered its old Chinatown and winding, shop-lined main street, the creek and gullies. Remnants of the diggings and old gold mines and eccentric local characters all stimulated their imagination. Both as children and adults, they bounced ideas off each other, engaged in lively conversation, argued and shared techniques. They were regarded by Creswick’s austere Victorian era community as bohemians.

Their antics continually challenged conventions of that period and the various biographies of Norman, Lionel and Daryl record these so well.

The Lindsay family home, Lisnacrieve, built in 1877, was a crowded house of 16 rooms on the corner of Cambridge and Victoria streets, Creswick. There was a stable and a buggy house, a fowl house and a “two seater dyke” (small one for children) and a big fruit and vegetable garden. Daryl Lindsay in the Leafy Tree says “Lisnacrieve seems to have a curious effect on the casual visitor…there was nothing exceptional in the old rambling house, money not plentiful, books everywhere, good strong classical meat thanks to uncensored reading the children grew to maturity with a natural appreciation for good classical books.

The house was surrounded by greenery, pines, willows and old  fir trees to climb The house was demolished in 1968, but the drawing room of the house was later re-created in the Art Gallery of Ballarat, thus preserving an aspect of life in the Lindsay home. The Ballarat Gallery also has a large collection of Lindsay artworks. The Creswick Museum has a small collection, mainly of work by Lionel and Daryl.


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