A thorn in the flesh

Rosaleen Norton belpignetRosaleen Norton aka “Roie” (born 2nd  October 1917  in New Zealand – died 5th  December 1979), grew up in Sydney, and adopted a Bohemian lifestyle and overwhelming interest  in the occult. Her youthful fascination with the occult blossomed into a lifelong passion and this combined with her sexually-charged artwork attracted bitter condemnation from the conservative establishment. Over the years her passion for the occult intensified and this was reflected  in her artwork. Living in the cosmopolitan area of Kings Cross, in Sydney, she led her own coven of witches.

A police raid on an exhibition of her art in Victoria in 1949 saw her charged with exhibiting “obscene articles‘ thus giving her the dubious distinction of being the first woman artist ever to face such an accusation in Victoria. She won the case but in 1952 her book “The Art of Rosaleen Norton” was banned in both Australia and the USA on similar grounds; and in 1960, a judicial sanction saw the destruction of several of her paintings.

This depiction ‘Belpignet’ (above) is one of Norton’s paintings from a copy of the book “Thorn in the Flesh”, which includes original material relating to some of the albums of press clippings, photos and ephemera along with fragments tales by her autobiographer, all contained in the one volume. The volume comprises poetry (often humorous), reminiscences, and various occult jottings, all by Rosaleen Norton.

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