The Norman Lindsay Gallery and Museum is in a beautiful bush setting at Faulconbridge in the Lower Blue Mountains, west of Sydney.
The garden surrounding the house has ancient Greek and Roman features with paths going off into the bush. Sculptures by Norman Lindsay are dotted around the garden. The interior of the house is now a gallery displaying Lindsay’s paintings which are mostly sumptuous nudes in the European style which were hugely controversial when first displayed in the 1930s.
The Magic Pudding is another children’s book with Australian themes, published early in the 20th century and still popular today. The cast of characters include Bunyip Bluegum who is a koala, and Bill Barnacle a sailor, and the penguin Sam Sawnoff who have to prevent the Magic Pudding from being stolen by thieves who are a wombat and a possum.
The author, Norman Lindsay, was a renowned artist who was born in 1879 in Victoria. He moved north to the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney where he bought a cottage in 1912 and lived there until his death in 1969. The house which he called Springwood is now owned by the National Trust and open to the public. Characters from The Magic Pudding can be seen around the house and garden.
At May Gibbs home, Nutcote, you can also walk in the garden, enjoy a snack in the café, visit the shop or admire the view.
The easiest way to visit Nutcote is to take a ferry from Circular Quay in central Sydney to Hayes Street Wharf, Neutral Bay and then walk up the steep path to the house.
Living to the advanced age of 92, May Gibbs died on 27 November 1969. She spent most of her adult life in Sydney, NSW, living in a house called Nutcote that overlooked Sydney Harbour.
Nutcote is now a museum and you can see the room where May worked producing her weekly newspaper comic strip called Bib and Bub.
In 1918, May Gibbs published her most popular story book for children, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie. She was a talented writer and artist, and both wrote the text and produced the illustrations for all her stories.
Most of the characters in her books are based on flowers found in the Australian bush. Snugglepot and Cuddlepie are gumnut babies and you can see them depicted in bronze in Stirling Gardens in the centre of Perth. The statues can be seen from the pavement on the Barrack Street side of the gardens.
When the Gibbs family moved to South Perth in the early 1890s, Western Australia was in the throes of a goldrush. The population grew quickly and suburbs spread out from the city centre. Imposing houses for the well-off were built in South Perth and the suburb was connected to the city by a ferry from Mends St jetty.
You can still travel by ferry across the river, making a journey that May Gibbs must have done often.
The Heritage House Cultural Centre in Windsor Park, South Perth holds a collection of May Gibbs’ paintings and also artworks by her father Herbert. Only a small part of the collection is on display at any one time.
Currently on display are paintings by May Gibbs of a bottlebrush baby and a watercolour of a Swan River scene. There is also a collection of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie dolls and other similar memorabilia.
The museum is open on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday from 1pm to 4pm.
From 1891, the Gibbs family lived in South Perth, across the river from Perth city centre. Both of May’s parents were artists and they entertained other art and music lovers in their home.
When she was 19 years old May took formal art lessons in Perth and then spent three periods in England studying and working. She returned to live in Australia in 1911, settling in Sydney.
The City of South Perth remembers the young May Gibbs with a statue in Windsor Park which is on the corner of Mends St, and Mill Point Rd. The sculpture by Joan Walsh-Smith and Charles Smith, shows May sitting under a gum tree reading a book. While the rest of the park has European trees, May Gibbs is surround by gum trees and Australian native plants.
May Gibbs described the two years that she spent at Harvey as the happiest years of her life. Even after she moved with her parents to Perth, she often returned to Harvey to stay with relatives and continued to enjoy rambling in the bush.
The Harvey Visitor Centre features displays about May Gibbs work, including the bush characters she created like the bad banksia men and the bottlebrush and wattle babies.
Travelling on the South Western Highway, on our way back from Margaret River, last weekend, we passed through Harvey. The town centre is about 500m off the main road, but the Harvey tourist precinct is on the highway where it crosses the Harvey River.
As well as providing visitor information, the tourist precinct is a destination in its own right and includes a small citrus fruit orchard, a riverside walk and a replica 1880s era cottage which is now a café.
The cottage over the years has had two famous inhabitants. In the 1830s, James Stirling, the first governor of Western Australia, had a cottage built on this site. In 1885 and 1886, May Gibbs, the creator of children’s stories with an Australian bush theme, lived in the cottage with her family. She was only eight years old at the time, but her memories of the surrounding bushland stayed with her for the rest of her life, and were incorporated into many of her bush characters including the famous gumnut babies, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie.