Dictionary of Sydney

The Dictionary of Sydney was archived in 2021.

Lindsay, Percy

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Lindsay, Percy

Like his brothers Lionel and Norman, Percy Lindsay became a renowned Sydney-based artist during the first half of the twentieth century, and left a significant legacy in the city. The growing importance of the harbour city as the leading centre of art and publishing in Australia in the early years of the twentieth century influenced his move there.

The eldest of 10 children, Percy Lindsay was born in 1870 and raised in Creswick, Victoria. He showed an early aptitude for drawing and was the first in the family to become an artist. After leaving school, he began painting Barbizon-influenced views of his home town, and briefly received tuition from artists Fred Sheldon and Walter Withers. After moving to Melbourne in the mid-1890s, Percy began to work as a cartoonist and commercial artist.

Along with brothers Lionel and Norman, he became involved in two of Melbourne's early bohemian social groups – the Prehistoric Order of Cannibals and later the Ishmael Club. After Lionel and Norman moved to Sydney, Percy became the best known Lindsay artist living in Melbourne, and was active in the Victorian Artists' Society. In 1907 he married Jessie Hammon and the couple had one child, Peter H Lindsay, who later became a Sydney-based artist.

Near the end of World War I, Lindsay and his family moved to Sydney and settled in Shirley Road, Roseville. Like his brothers, he illustrated for The Bulletin as well as other publications. His first love was landscape art and he enjoyed painting the Hawkesbury River and the bays and inlets of Sydney harbour, especially around Berrys Bay. His best known Sydney painting, The Bridge Builders, 1927, is a work that shows the early stages of the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Like his brothers, Lindsay exhibited his work at the Society of Artists' annual shows as well as leading commercial galleries. However, along with many other traditionalists, he perceived the society as being increasingly accepting of modernist trends in art. Like his brothers, he severed his links with the organisation in the late 1930s and later exhibited with the rival Royal Art Society.

During his time in Sydney Lindsay became a prolific book and magazine illustrator, working mainly for the New South Wales Bookstall Company, Angus & Robertson and The Bulletin.

After the death of his wife, Lindsay revived his painting career, exhibiting his small Hawkesbury River and Sydney harbour landscapes in Sydney and Melbourne. Much loved for his friendly nature and his ebullient sense of humour, Lindsay spent his last years, until his death in 1952, living near Sydney harbour at Milsons Point and subsequently at North Sydney.


Silas Clifford-Smith, 'Percy Lindsay', unpublished manuscript, 2008

Ron Radford, Percy Lindsay, Ballarat Fine Art Gallery (exhibition catalogue), Ballarat NSW, 1975

Ursula Prunster, The Legendary Lindsays, The Beagle Press, Roseville NSW, c1995