This linocut, one of a small number hand printed by Melbourne artist Eric Thake as his 1954 Christmas Card, is an important addition to the Museum's Phar Lap collection. It currently contains a small select group of artworks, both professional and amateur, depicting the horse. This is arguably one of the most well known artistic depictions of Phar Lap, particularly in relation to his transformation from champion racehorse to iconic museum object, and brilliantly sums up the ongoing continuing debate that has raged both inside and outside the organisation on the role of Phar Lap as serious museum object or museum icon.

Daryl Lindsay (1889-1976) was an Australian artist and art administrator, often best remebered for his years as director of the National Gallery of Victoria (1942-76) having suceeded the unpopular James S. MacDonald (1936-41). A passionate horseman himself, having been a boundary rider and station hand before the First World War, Lindsay was slow to follow his older brothers - Percy, Norman and Lionel - into an artistic career. He served in France during the First World War where his artistic talents were noted, in particular by his brother-in-law cartoonist Will Dyson, and in 1918 he was appointed an Official Medical Artist at the Sidcup Military Hospital for facial reconstructive surgery in Kent, England.

Lindsay pursued a career as an artist upon returned to Australia, being appointed as Keeper of the Prints at the National Gallery of Victoria in 1940, and shortly thereafter replaced MacDonald as director. A frequent complaint of Lindsay's during his directorship was that visitors to the National Gallery and Museum in Swanston street came not to appreciate the art, but rather to see the famed race-horse. Lindsay himself had painted, and briefly ridden, Phar Lap shortly after his famed 1930 Melbourne Cup win when the horse was stabled at Underbank Stud at Bacchus Marsh. Lindsay and his wife, Australia author Joan, lived at Bacchus Marsh during the Depression years where Lindsay got to know Sol Green, owner of Underbank.

Physical Description

Hand printed linocut Christmas card, hand titled, signed and dates by the artist in pencil. Image depicts the director of the National Gallery of Victoria, Daryl Lindsay (1942-55) standing in front of artworks, pointing through an archway to Phar Lap. Several people surround Phar Lap, kneeling in adoration. The image sums of a frequent complaint of Lindsay's that visitors to the National Gallery and Museum site during his directorship came not to appreciate the art, but rather to see the famed race-horse.


One of the most iconic art works associated with the champion racehorse Phar Lap must be the linocut produced in 1959 by Melbourne artist Eric Thake. A very limited number were produced, to be used by Thake as a Christmas card.

In 1941, Eric Thake first made a linocut to be sent to close friends as a Christmas card. It was so warmly received that the Christmas linocut became a tradition which continued until 1975, when Thake's failing eyesight made linocutting impossible. The Christmas cards were not religious in nature, with the possible exception of The Adoration of the Magi (1949). However, even this card shows a family of owls rather than the traditional biblical figures.

In 1954 he decided to focus on the exasperation felt by his friend, National Gallery of Victoria Director Daryl Lindsay (artist husband of `Picnic at Hanging Rock author Joan Lindsay) at the hordes of people who came to the Swanston Street building looking not for art, but for a horse. Thake played on the almost religious fervour displayed by visitors to the Museum, which was then housed in the Swanston Street complex along with the National Gallery and the State Library, by having them bowing before him in devotion.

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