The Norman Lindsay Facsimile Etchings were launched with considerable publicity on 30 November 1974 at Bloomfield Galleries. The metal plates which had been cancelled by Jane Lindsay and all the printing materials (subsequently destroyed) were also displayed. Each facsimile was hung next to the original etchings to demonstrate the quality of the facsimile.
The first set of facsimile etchings was presented in three folios which included:
Folio 1 ($100): Enter the Magicians, The Innocents, Decoy, Argument
Folio 2 ($50): The Bauble, Bargains, Dryad, The Butterfly
Folio 3 ($100): Self Portrait, C Sharp Minor Quartet, Life in the Temple
This exhibition proved that in some quarters censorship was still flourishing. Full page advertisements featuring Self Portrait were placed with the Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian newspapers. The Australian accepted and published the advertisement without fuss. The Sydney Morning Herald, after examining a small, clear reproduction of Self Portrait also accepted. Delivery of the full-size photograph, however, sparked a series of emergency meetings ascending the management ladder until a top level directive not to publish was issued. By then it was too late to photograph another image for the advertisement so the page ran on 30 November 1974, p.14, as a blank with the words This etching was banned in 1930. Norman Lindsay is still a controversial figure in 1974.
Trying to find out the reasoning behind the ban was not easy. As the Bulletin (14 December 1974, p.20) reported under the cheeky heading 'All The Nudes fit to Print', Mrs Bloomfield kept asking people at the Herald what exactly the management objected to in the etching: could they point, perhaps, to any particular feature ...? She got answers which kept mentioning "segments of our society" and "sections of our readership which, unlike the readers of other papers, tend to write in to us with their objections". She surmised, however, that it was the main male nude figure which did not appeal.
In November 1994 Bloomfield Galleries held a commemorative exhibition of the forty Norman Lindsay facsimile etchings, published over twenty years, together with seven remaining cancelled plates from the first editions. Desire was a special release for this exhibition.
In 1998 unpublished etchings were released for the first time as facsimile etchings. All the unpublished etchings are rare and the majority are exceedingly rare. In most instances the only known prints are in the Mitchell Library folios.
2005 saw the first release of etchings where the originals had only previously been available in limited edition books and therefore extremely rare. Columbine from the 1918 Colombine and Your Fate from the 1927 The Etchings of Norman Lindsay were released as facsimile etchings in specially printed folios, sold together, similar to the first release of facsimile etchings in 1974.
April 2006 saw the release of Atlantis
The early 1980s saw the sale of Langridge Press to John Konrad whose company Konrad International Printing Pty Ltd continued printing the etchings in conjunction with Ralfs and Hermsdorf who continued to make new plates for each facsimile. Langridge Press printings totalled twenty-three and Konrad International twenty. In 1995 the printing process was moved into the hands of Lindsay, Yates & Partners Pty Limited in conjunction with technical supervisor Steve McGilchrist.
In recent years advances in technology have led to dramatically changed printing methods. The printer still needs to be aware of the many subtle colour and tone changes in these apparently monochrome works. But now the image is digitally scanned using the latest Dianippon Screen 737 Laser scanning unit. The original work is not subjected to this process, but is usually available for reference. At the film stage colour, contrast, sharpness and tone ranges of each colour are assessed, and the printer frequently needs six or seven sets of the image before deciding which will be best for printing.
A Chromalin chemical proof is then produced before printing. Once the proof has been approved the plates are then made by the printer to suit his machine configuration. The negative film that is supplied to the platemaker is laid in contact with the unexposed aluminium plate in a vacuum frame under immense pressure to ensure that after exposure to a specific light source an accurate transfer of the image has taken place from film to plate. After this exposure, the plate is sent through an automatic developing processor to dissolve the unexposed areas and harden the actual image areas ready for the printing press. This process is repeated for each of the colour separations that make up the facsimile image.
The printing machine used for these facsimiles is a Heidelberg Speedmaster 72FP five colour press. The plates are loaded onto the press and basic make-ready takes place, which includes mixing lightfast inks, cleaning all roller systems to ensure accurate colour consistency throughout the run and running set-up sheets through to get all of the plates in perfect register.
The colour and tonal values of the image are constantly reassessed until the correct levels are achieved to simulate the original etchings. This generally takes a number of hours to complete with adjustments to the colour of the inks, density of impressions and balance between the individual colours being a slow and gradual process.
At the end of the printing process the plates are scribed whilst still on the machine and then destroyed in conjunction with all of the make-ready and set-up sheets. The printed sheets are then set aside for drying. At this stage they are covered, sealed and signed by the printer for security reasons.
After printing is complete an embossed seal is stamped in the lower right-hand corner of the image in order to protect both the original etching and the facsimile. They are individually numbered by hand in editions of 550, the edition number being a multiple of 55, the highest edition number of any of the original published etchings.
All the materials used in production are destroyed after the print run is completed, thus ensuring that the edition is genuine and no more can be produced. Facsimiles have up to thirteen proofs issues; these are distributed to libraries, the publishers, printers and other persons concerned with their publication.
The facsimile etchings are represented in various public institutions including the National Library of Australia, Canberra; Mitchell Library, Sydney; New South Wales Parliamentary Library, Sydney; Fisher Library, University of Sydney, Sydney; Bray Reference Library, State Library of South Australia, Adelaide; and the National Trust Norman Lindsay Gallery and Museum, Faulconbridge, NSW. For over forty years collectors both in Australia and overseas have been purchasing the Norman Lindsay Facsimile Etchings which complement their art collections