On 30 November 1974 Lin Bloomfield; founder of Bloomfield Galleries, in response to Lindsay's original etchings becoming increasing unattainable, and after consultation with Jane Lindsay, released the first three folios of the facsimile etchings.
With access to original Norman Lindsay etchings becoming more difficult through either cost or simple availability in 1974, following the hugely successful exhibition at Sydney's Bloomfield Galleries the idea for producing limited edition Norman Lindsay Facsimile etchings was born.
Gallery Director, Lin Bloomfield and Jane Lindsay, daughter of Norman agreed that in order to meet the increasing demand for Norman Lindsay works they would publish three folios of limited edition facsimile reproductions which could be offered at an affordable price.
Kevin Langridge of Langridge Press, who printed the two volume Angus & Robertson Norman Lindsay; Two Hundred Etchings, was already fully conversant with the originals and agreed to undertake what proved to be a difficult task. As they were to be facsimiles of the original they had to be printed in several colours, the only way to match the tone quality of the originals. This meant that there were separate plates for each colour. After working with the originals Kevin commented to Lin: 'These etchings are so intricate you don't realise until you dissect them like this just how superb a craftsman Norman was. I don't know how he did it without ruining his eyes'. The plates were made by Ralfs and Hermsdorf.
The results were of the highest quality and 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 etching to demonstrate the quality of the facsimile.
The first set of facsimile etchings was presented in three folios. Folio 1 ($100): Enter the Magicians, The Innocents, Decoy and Argument; Folio 2 ($50): The Bauble, Bargains, Dryad and The Butterfly; and Folio 3 ($100): Self Portrait, C Sharp Minor Quartet and 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 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 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?
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. During the 1990s 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 always 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. Several facsimiles have up to ten proofs issued; these are distributed to libraries, the publisher, printer and other persons concerned with their publication.
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.
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.
Lin Bloomfield retains the copyright on all of Norman Lindsay's etchings and to produce the facsimile etchings. Editions are restricted to 550 and each is individually numbered. Authenticity is guaranteed by an embossed seal (see below) with a dot in the 6:00 o'clock position. All works have a Certificate of Authenticity and once an edition has sold out, the image is never again released.