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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

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Norman and Rose: lifelong love

She remembered ‘he was very slim and alert, and wearing a high, stiff collar’. He remembered ‘we both stared at each other … then burst into a hearty laugh’. And so it began.

1 Bill Dyson and Rose, Northwood, c. 1903 an unknown artist. 2 Rose Lindsay, 1970 Anthony Browell. © Anthony Browell. 3 Norman, Sydney studio, c. 1909 an unknown artist. 4 Ruby, Norman, Pearl, Percy, Reg, Bill Dyson and Mary in Creswick garden, c. 1899 an unknown artist.

Artist Julian Ashton introduced Rose Soady as ‘Sydney’s best-looking and best-figured model’, wrote Norman Lindsay in his autobiography My Mask, adding ‘which she unquestionably was’, as he ruminated on having a premonition of their romance. Rose recalls in Model wife: My life with Norman Lindsay that, much to her mother’s consternation, she quickly became immersed in Lindsay’s ‘mad household’. Sudden, ‘free’ and improvised dramatic tableaux for the clique’s cameras were nothing unusual, and Rose appears here with Norman’s friend, the cartoonist Will Dyson. Will – falling in love with Rose about the same time Rose and Norman realised they were in love with each other – returned to Melbourne and married Norman’s sister Ruby. Tragically, Ruby became victim to the 1919 influenza epidemic. Norman Lindsay’s paintings were known for being overtly sensual and challenging the moralising age in which he produced them. Here, 70 years after their first meeting, Rose poses in front of her love’s work for Anthony Browell’s camera.

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

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