30.2 x 24.9 cm
Engraving, etching, stipple and roulette on paper
Norman Lindsay Etchings: Catalogue Raisonné (Odana Editions and Josef Lebovic Gallery, 2006, cat.193)
Art Gallery of Western Australia
National Gallery of Victoria
National Trust Norman Lindsay Gallery and Museum
Rose was the model.
In 1919 Norman wrote to his son Jack about his new etching Enigma which ponders the mystery of life:
The last big plate Enigma is just issued. Will it interest you also, I wonder, Man, at the foot of Life, asks himself, the eternal enigma of his destiny of earth between primitivism, fear, and pain, to beyond death.
Prior to its first showing Norman explained the meaning of Enigma to Gayfield Shaw who owned a gallery in Sydney (Gayfield Shaw's Gallery) which was the first to exhibit Norman's etchings in 1919:
The female figure represents Life. The crouching forms in the background are Fear, Pain, and the primitive brute in man. Man himself, the product from savagery to civilization, seated between the feet of Life, strives to question the enigma of his arrival on earth, and the problem of his future beyond earth, which Death waits quietly by to solve for him.
Death is represented as a strong and handsome youth, which may suggest a possible answer to the enigma of Man's life on earth.
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