Fanfrolico and After: The Lindsay Aesthetic in the Cultural Cold War

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This article follows Jack Lindsay (1900–1990) in his transformation from an Australian anti-modernist to a British-based Communist and cultural Cold Warrior. Lindsay was the driving force behind a cluster of initiatives in 1920s Sydney and London to propagate the art and ideas of his father, the painter Norman Lindsay. These included the deluxe limited edition Fanfrolico Press and the little magazines Vision and The London Aphrodite. The article reconstructs the terms of Lindsay's anti-modernist polemics and the paradoxically modernist forms they took, but it also attends to his change of heart. In the two decades after the Second World War, Lindsay found himself defending modernism against both its Cold War co-optation as the in-house aesthetic of the capitalist ‘Free World’ and its reflex denigration within Soviet and international Communist aesthetics. Against the elevation of modernism in the Anglo-American academy and its cultural-diplomatic deployment by agencies of the state, against the uncritical celebration of realism and its Soviet-sphere derivatives, Lindsay proposed a subaltern tradition of experimental art characterised by its utopian symbolism and national-popular inflection. For Lindsay, this tradition reached back to Elizabethan times, but it included modernism as one of its moments. From the vantage of the Cold War, Lindsay now identified the Fanfrolico project as itself an ‘Australian modernism,’ elements of which might yet fuse to form a more perfect socialist realism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)276-294
Number of pages19
JournalModernist Cultures
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020


  • Australian modernism
  • Cold War
  • Fanfrolico Press
  • Jack Lindsay
  • Socialist realism


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