THE Art Gallery of Ballarat celebrated its current exhibition Australians at War, 1914–1945, with a morning tea in honour of veteran Australian cartoonist Vane Lindesay. Vane Lindesay (b. 1920) is a cartoonist, illustrator, writer and book designer and a pioneer historian of Australian cartoon history. His professional career as a cartoonist started in 1942, when he was invited to join the staff of SALT, a magazine produced for the Australian services by the Australian Army Education Unit during the Second World War. The Gallery exhibition features copies of some of the issues of the magazine, and original cartoons drawn for the magazine by Lindesay and other artists. “The posting to SALT was the start of my design career,” said Mr Lindesay. “The magazine was a unique exercise in adult education and entertainment. It was a policy to encourage contributions from all the armed services and published some fine poetry, stories, feature articles and drawings by men and women on active service and the home front.” Lindesay worked on the magazine for four years, serving in the art department – designing the magazine, producing cartoons for it, and selecting which of the many drawings submitted by men and women serving in the forces would be selected for inclusion.
Gallery Director Gordon Morrison said that the Gallery was honoured to welcome back an artist and historian who has become regarded as the greatest living authority on Australian cartooning. “What Vane Lindesay doesn’t know about cartooning in this country is scarcely worth knowing. He has an encyclopaedic knowledge, and knew most of his fellow cartoonists well,” Mr Morrison said. “He also has collected cartoons through his career, and has been extremely generous in not only sharing information with us, but with some very generous donations of work to this collection over the last few years.”
Vale Lindesay brought with him a sheaf of original drawings which he is donating to the Gallery, including a colour design for one of the front covers of the magazine.
Gordon Morrison said that SALT was a much neglected resource for the study of Australia at war in the 1940s.
“It was an extraordinary exercise in adult education. The soldiers were being given articles about anything from bush survival to art appreciation and adapting to back to civilian life. “It also unearthed some amazing images produced by ordinary service personnel. “I have been so struck by the range of images in SALT that the Gallery is aiming to build up a holding of the entire set.” Lindesay’s main literary interest is Australian black-andwhite art. Essays and features by Lindesay on this topic have appeared in the Age, Overland, Australian Book Review, the Australian Dictionary of Biography and the Australian Encyclopaedia. He has published several books on the history and nature of the Australian cartoon, including The Inked-in Image: A social and historical survey of Australian comic art (1979); Australian Popular Magazines (1983); Drawing From Life: A history of the Australian Black & White Artists’ Club (1994) and Stop Laughing, this is serious: the life and work of Stan Cross (2001).
He has also provided illustrations for numerous books, including by the famous leftwing author and fellow member of the SALT magazine art committee, Frank Hardy.