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Charles Ephraim Smith Tindall

Scottish, 1863 - 1951

The son of James and Jean Tindall, Charles Ephraim Smith Tindall was born in the Scottish county of Aberdeenshire in 1863. Little is known of his early life, but in early adulthood he undertook training as a lithographer in Glasgow. Tindall migrated to New South Wales in 1887 and seems to have initially settled in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs.

In a short profile of the artist published in Fifty years of Australian Art 1879-1929 (Royal Art Society Press, p93), Tindall claimed to have had his first lessons in colour from Charles Conder, an artist who was active in Sydney (at the same time as Tindall) during 1887-88. Conder was not known as a teacher at this time so this early career tuition may have been more of an informal nature. According to William Moore (Story of Australian Art, Volume I, p165), Tindall along with George W. Lambert, Sydney Long, J.S. Watkins and H.S. Hopwood were members of the Art Society of NSW Brush Club. Moore continued his historical account of the Brush Club by mentioning that its members met once a month at the Cambridge Hotel, Sydney, where their sketches were criticized by Julian R. Ashton, Henry Fullwood and others. The English watercolour painter H.S. Hopwood, who lived in Australia for eighteen months during 1889 and 1890, was, according to the profile in Fifty years of Australian Art 1879-1929, an important early influence on Tindall.

By 1893 Tindall was working from a studio at 268 George Street, Sydney. That same year he began to exhibit his work at the annual exhibition of the Art Society of NSW with four Sydney Harbour paintings. Over the following half century he continued to exhibit his watercolours at many of the Society’s exhibitions. By 1894 he was residing in the Sydney harbour-side district of Balmain.

1896 saw Tindall appointed to the executive council of the Art Society of NSW, and in the following year he was advertising his outdoor watercolour class in the Art Society’s exhibition catalogue. One notable career achievement for Tindall occurred in 1898 when his A Westerly – Circular Quay, Sydney was exhibited at the 'Exhibition of Australian Art in London’ at the Grafton Galleries, London. That same year he and his family moved from working class Balmain to a house located in the affluent North Shore suburb of Lindfield. Despite the move he continued to paint ships on Sydney Harbour.

While Tindall received little mention in his early career, his reputation became established during the early years of the twentieth century. In 1902 he found his first career success when the (then National) Art Gallery of NSW purchased his watercolour Gone are the days. The following year, Tindall travelled to Japan via Shanghai, and in 1904 he exhibited seven works created during this trip. One work, Timber laden junks, Shanghai, was purchased from the (now Royal) Art Society annual show.

Almost all of Tindall’s output during his long Australian period was in watercolour, a medium which was regarded as a slight or amateur technique by many. Despite this, his well observed realist marine images of Sydney Harbour and the NSW coast found a market, and by 1907 the notable Sydney art dealer Adolf Albers was advertising that Tindall (along with several other artists) was one of his represented artists, a connection that continued until at least the start of the First World War.

While best known as a marine painter, Tindall also painted landscape. This was especially so in 1911 when he entered eleven works in that years RAS exhibition. A review in the July/August 1911 issue of Art & Architecture (p306) commented on his landscape at that year’s RAS show:
'Mr. Chas. Tindall though not abandoning the wharves and the ships, gives us more landscape than we look for from him, and very good landscape it is. “The Waning Day,” “Mount Dromedary,” and “At the Shipbreakers,” are excellent; but the finest of all is “Wintle’s Rocks, Tilba Tilba.” The tall rocky pinnacles, golden in the sunshine, with a sea of beryl and amethyst plashing idly about their base, is a brilliant piece of colour that one would never tire of looking at, and it marks a distinct advance in delicacy and imaginative conception often sought for in vain in Mr. Tindall’s work.’

At the 1914 RAS annual show, the artist exhibited, arguably, his most well received image. From Berry’s Bay Heights (also known as From Berry’s Bay), an elevated view of a picturesque cove in Sydney Harbour, was purchased for fifty guineas by the National Art Gallery of NSW (AGNSW). According to The Triad(10 January 1919), this work was one of the six most popular paintings in the AGNSW collection, and was later exhibited at the 1923 exhibition of Australian art at the Royal Academy in London. While Tindall had advertised his outdoor watercolour painting before, in 1921 he began to advertise his services in the RAS annual exhibition catalogue as giving instruction in painting shipping subjects.

While watercolour painting had been poorly regarded up to the war, following the death of J.J. Hilder in 1916 there were a series of Hilder tribute exhibitions that led to an increasing male respect for the watercolour technique during the interwar period. At an August 1923 meeting in Sydney, Tindall, along with prominent Sydney based watercolourists B.E. Minns, A.J. Daplyn, Martin Stainforth, J.H. Bennett and A.H. Fullwood, established the Australian Watercolour Institute (AWI). At the AWI’s first exhibition in 1924 Tindall exhibited fifteen works, mainly of Sydney Harbour and the Snowy Mountains. Tindall continued to exhibit with the Institute up to 1945.

Following the 1922 RAS annual exhibition there was a minor leadership purge within the Society which saw several members, including Tindall, removed from the executive council. Tindall seems to have taken great offence at this snub and for several years did not exhibit with the RAS. During this time he briefly exhibited his work with the rival Society of Artists. Tindall exhibited two works at the 1923 SOA annual exhibition and one work at their 1924 show. But by 1925 he was exhibiting again with the RAS, though he never served again on their council.

At the second AWI exhibition in 1925, Tindall exhibited a work titled The way for the bridge, and at the 1926 RAS exhibition he exhibited a watercolour depicting the ceremony of laying the foundation-stone for the Sydney Harbour Bridge. These works were therefore among the first artistic representations of this important construction project, something unrecognized by subsequent historians of the world famous Bridge.

While Tindall’s association with Albers has been recorded, there are no known solo exhibitions by the artist apart from a show at Rubery Bennett’s Australian Fine Art Gallery, King Street, Sydney, in December 1927. The exhibition was well received by the Sydney critics, including William Moore, writing in the Daily Telegraph (12 December 1927, p14):

'While C.E.S. Tindall is one of our best-known painters in watercolour, the exhibition of his work at the Australian Fine Arts Galleries will greatly enhance his reputation. He not only knows how to use his medium, but the sincerity and freshness of his outlook give considerable charm to his work. It is the mood of nature, that he gives in a composition; and as he has a strong sense of color, his free direct method makes a ready appeal to the spectator.’

Following the exhibition Tindall, in 1928, was appointed Associate of the Royal Art Society (ARAS), and in 1935 he was promoted to Fellow of the Royal Art Society (FRAS). In June 1936 he made a visit to his homeland of Scotland, and at the 1937 AWI exhibition he exhibited six works, including three images of Aberdeen, one of the Loch of Aboyne, and a view of North Devon. Tindall repeated the trip in June 1939 when he travelled first class by ship to Scotland via Liverpool. Works from that tour, undertaken on the eve of war, were exhibited at the AWI and RAS exhibitions in 1940. There is little evidence of his painting during the Second World War apart from several works exhibited at the RAS and AWI shows. His last recorded work, The Coming Storm, was exhibited at the 1945 AWI show. Despite being the end of his exhibiting career, the AWI honoured their foundation member with an honorary membership, the first time that tribute had been bestowed by the Institute.

C.E.S. Tindall died aged eighty-nine on Monday 9 July 1951, and his Presbyterian funeral was held the following day at the Northern Suburbs Crematorium, Sydney. There are no major published profiles of the artist and little is known of his personality and artistic philosophy. Tindall and his wife, Mary, had three children, Conrad Lindsay Tindall (lifespan unknown) was badly wounded during the First World War and later lived with his parents as an 'incapacitated soldier’. Two of Tindall’s other children, Murdoch Charles Tindall (b.1889 in Waverley, Sydney) and Phyllis Tindall (1898-1950) became artists, Phyllis being known professionally as Nessie Tindall.