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Henry Lawson, c. 1919

Lionel Lindsay

pencil, charcoal, pen and ink on paper (sheet: 35.0 cm x 24.4 cm)

Henry Lawson (1867–1922), one of Australia’s defining authors, is best known for his short stories and ballads depicting the hardship of bush life. Lawson spent his childhood on a poor selection in the Mudgee district in New South Wales. He received little formal education, but he was encouraged to read widely by his mother, women’s rights activist and writer Louisa Lawson. A regular contributor to the Bulletin in the 1890s, he supported its nationalist, egalitarian and pro-union stance. In that decade, too, he wrote scores of stories and vignettes, the best of them – such as ‘The Drover’s Wife’ and ‘The Bush Undertaker’ – haunting, profoundly sad and wryly funny all at once. Despite catastrophic bouts of depression and alcoholism that turned him into a shambling, suicidal wraith, Lawson continued to write until his death in Sydney at the age of fifty-five, when he was honoured with a State funeral.

Sir Lionel Lindsay (1874–1961) was a productive watercolourist, etcher, wood engraver, black and white artist and book illustrator as well as a vocal art critic. One of ten children, five of whom became professional artists, he made many etchings and engravings of Sydney architecture and of Australian birds and animals. He used to see Lawson on the Sydney ferries, in bookshops and in pubs around the Bulletin office, recalling that ‘Henry whenever he met you, would pull up very erect and salute with a pleasant, wild smile’. Lindsay drew Lawson often. ‘He was a splendid sitter’, he wrote, ‘and seemed rather to like putting in time this way. But I have no recollections of our conversation; though I remember his excitement about an illustration I had made for one of his stories. He swore I must have seen the character drawn as it was his breathing image. I told him that his description was so good that I couldn’t have missed him. But he remained unconvinced.’

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2010

Accession number: 2010.101

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Lionel Lindsay (age 45 in 1919)

Henry Lawson (age 52 in 1919)

Subject professions


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