# 39016

LINDSAY, Norman (1879-1969)

Magna Charta in Reverse

  • Sold

Crayon, ink and wash on paper, 50 x 35 cms, signed lower left, framed with window cut for caption.

A fine large-format artwork by Norman Lindsay originally published during the Second World War in The Bulletin (28th June, 1944, Vol. 65, No. 3359, p.5). The work depicts Australian Labor Prime Minister John Curtin (coincidentally born six years after Norman Lindsay in the goldfields town of Creswick) characterised as an alternate version ‘King John’, perverting the Magna Carta by forcing a shackled man into signing away his constitutional freedoms. The cartoon references the 1944 Australian Post-War Reconstruction and Democratic Rights referendum, which proposed changes to the Australian Constitution to enact 14 additional powers for the Commonwealth Government, ostensibly to facilitate the transition to peacetime from the period of war. Deemed the Constitution Alteration (Post-War Reconstruction and Democratic Rights) Bill 1944, it was put to a vote on 19 August 1944 and defeated by 54% of the electorate.

The caption reads :

MAGNA CHARTA IN REVERSE. On June 15 (Old Style), 1215, the other King John agreed that “No freeman shall be arrested or detained in prison or in any way molested unless by the lawful judgment of his peers and by the law of the land … To no one will we sell, to no one will we refuse or delay, right or justice.”

A rare and powerful Norman Lindsay commentary on Australian democracy.