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Sydney Rare Book Auction presents:-

The Norman Lindsay Collection
from the Estate of James Kemsley
Catalogue Essay

It is not often that one glimpses an Australian collection of such immense, creative importance. Two artists, in every sense of the word, and their prolific output – a meeting of two great Australian icons, Ginger Meggs and The Magic Pudding.

It would appear that life itself set these fruitful two on their fateful journey and yet it was a youthful James Kemsley who on the eve of Norman Lindsay’s death in 1969 cemented their meeting through setting upon the life long task of amassing the most comprehensive collection of Norman Lindsay printed matter to ever exist. Every Norman Lindsay title, every publication to ever reference Lindsay, every illustration ever printed, every single piece of paper to ever whisper his name. All encompassing tends to fall a little short.

And now for a numbers game.

In 1984, James Kemsley was invited to take over the reins of Australia’s longest running comic strip, Ginger Meggs, 105 years after Norman Lindsay was born in the small, gold mining town of Creswick in rural Victoria.
Ginger Meggs was created in 1921 by cartoonist Jim Bancks, who having spent his formative years growing up in Federation Australia was highly influenced by the nationalist overtones of The Bulletin and American Livingstone ‘Hop’ Hopkins’ The Boy from Manly.

The Pacific blue seas between Manly and America set the scene for Kemsley, who in the last year of the twentieth century signed Ginger Meggs with US-based Atlantic Syndication giving our ginger-haired youth a new lease on life and introducing him to the good morning laughter of 127 world wide newspapers.

In the first year of the century, the year of Federation, 1901, The Bulletin founder and editor, Jules Archibald, invited a young 22 year old by the name of Norman Lindsay to join the ranks at his influential publication. A creative association that would last for more than 50 years and a foundation that would see Lindsay establish his own publication, The Lone Hand, in a bid to support and create a truly Australian culture.
Ginger Meggs was the quintessential Australian larrikin, the boy to Australia’s mythological soldier, the very horrific image Norman Lindsay wished to escape when in 1918 he envisioned The Magic Pudding and its iconic swag of characters.

Norman Lindsay’s childhood was famously writ large by Lindsay in his novel, The Cousins from Fiji, first published in 1945. It humourously depicted his 1890’s goldfields youth and 32 years later was televised as an ABC mini series. In a case of art imitating life Kemsley pushed his Lindsay collection to the boundaries of physical space - his acting career saw him star in The Cousin from Fiji.

Lindsay lived for 90 years, the age that our pint-sized Ginger Meggs now finds himself in 2011. Norman Lindsay died in 1969, the year that Kemsley began to accrue his first pieces of Lindsayana.

Every Ginger Meggs custodian has died at the draftsman’s table. Kemsley included, asking his inheritor, Jason Chatfield to carry on the flame just fourteen days before his death at the close of 2007. And Chatfield, born in 1984, is the youngest cartoonist to take on Ginger Meggs, at just 23 years when he took the reins, the same age at which Norman Lindsay produced his first fully illustrated book, A. G. Stephens’ Oblation in 1902.

Hilaire Belloc penned On the Return of the Dead, a fictional account of Francois Rabelais and his descent from heaven to earth in 1902. Lindsay of course, was a great admirer of Rabelais and his use of sexual double entendre and bawdy songs and planned to one day publish an illustrated edition of The Works of Francois Rabelais. Lindsay’s personal 1876 leather copy of this epic title, bound with 23 original Lindsay, full page pen drawings was Kemsley’s pride and joy.
And from life after death, in 2008 James Kemsley was posthumously awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for his service to Australian cartooning and his commitment to Ginger Meggs.

A tale told over 132 years, of two men who never met and yet were inexplicably linked by our colonial history, the formation of our national identity, the annals of Australian art and the chronicles of our great publishing past.

James Lawrence Kemsley was born in Paddington, Sydney on 15 November 1948. Much like Lindsay, James was a man of many prodigious hats from actor and television presenter to writer and of course, to illustrator and producer of the famed newspaper comic strip Ginger Meggs. James succumbed to motor neurone disease at the age of 59 and passed away on 3 December 2007.

Next Auction Details

Viewing Times
9am-5pm on Saturday 16th,
Sunday 17th and Monday 18th,
April 2011.

Auction Time
5:30pm Monday 18th April, 2011

The Sebel - The Riley Room
28 Albion Street, Surry Hills
+612 9289 0000

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