James Vane Crawford Lindesay

Born Sydney, New South Wales 1920

By Lindsay Foyle

Vane Lindesay was born in Sydney and always had an interest in drawing. He kept a scrapbook of cartoons from Smith’s Weekly, The Bulletin and other publications while growing up in Melbourne.

Lindesay left school at 15 and after graduating for South Melbourne Technical School he worked for a short time on a building site. Labouring for bricklayers. He then worked in the Radio Corporation factory assembling power transformers foe Astor radios. Next, he worked in a wool store carrying huge cane baskets of wool. It was physically heard as it was monotonous. At night he was studying at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.

It did not last, as he could not cope with the mathematics required in the radio course and dropped out. Still keen on the practical workings of radio he joined the Citizen Military Forces, enlisting in the Third Division Corp Signals. It was part time and he was also working at W&G Dean, suppliers of art materials.

He joined the Army at the start of World War Two and became a signalman with a machine-gun regiment. He was in Darwin when it was bombed in 1942 and soon after he was transferred south to the Pay Corps after his health deteriorated. He became a regular contributor of cartoons to Salt, an army educational publication and soon joined the staff. Lindesay stayed there for just over three years and was senior artist when eventually discharged from the army after the war ended.

For a short time, he worked for The Herald and freelanced before heading to England where he stayed for three years working and studying European cartooning. He returned to Australia and took a job on The Argus where he became head artist. He drew cartoons for the paper and contributed to Australasian Post where he had a cartoon or illustration in every issue for over 40 years. When The Argus folded in 1957 he turned his attention to freelancing and book design.

Lindesay has written extensively on Australian cartooning with articles published in The Age, Overland, The Bulletin, The Australian, Australian Book Review, The Australian Dictionary of Biography, the Australian Encyclopaedia and he contributed over 20 profiles to the World Encyclopaedia of Cartoons published in 1976.

His first book on the history of Australian cartooning, The Inked-in Image was published in 1979. It was followed by It’s Moments Like These... (1979), The Way We Were (1983), Noel Counihan Caricatures (1985), Aussie Osities (1988), Drawing from Life (1994), Stop Laughing: This is Serious! (2001), Some Fragments Recalled, A Life So Far (2005), The Life and Art of William (WEG) Green (2010), Classic Australian Comic Strips (2014), Quirky Words (2016) and Literary Larks (2017).

Vane was presented with the Stanley Award for contribution to Australian Black and White Art in 1988 and was given an Award of Honour in 1991 by the Australian Book Publishers Association in recognition for his contribution to Australian book design and production. And he was Smocked in 2004 and became patron of the Australian Cartoonists’ Association in late 2004.

Vane Lindesay entered the ACA Hall of Fame in 2015.

Further reading