Bacchanal Rosaleen Norton
Alexandre Rodrigues da Costa
3 min

Whispers and Moans In the Forest: The Erotic and Pagan Art Of Rosáleen Norton

3 min

Currently, Amazon Prime is showcasing a documentary titled "The Witch of Kings Cross." It revolves around the life and work of Rosaleen Norton, an Australian painter who stirred controversy in her country during the 1950s and 1960s. The artist gained notoriety for her pagan-themed paintings, displayed at the University of Melbourne Library in 1949 and later at the Apollyon and Kashmir coffee-shops in Sydney's Kings Cross, plunged her into legal controversy, and her 1952 publication of the book “The Art of Rosaleen Norton”, which was banned in Australia for containing, according to authorities, obscene material.

Rosaleen Norton Australian artist


rosaleen norton three witches


Rosaleen Norton


rosaleen norton witch


Sensationalist Media

Rosaleen Norton was repeatedly called to testify by the police and became a target of sensationalist media due to her involvement, along with her lover, the poet Gavin Greenless, in acts associated with witchcraft, contrary to the moral standards of the time in Australia. The maestro and musical composer Sir Eugene Goossens joined the couple due to his interest in paganism. However, upon returning from a trip to England, he was detained at the Australian customs for importing pornographic material. This event and the fact of participating in Rosaleen Norton 's magical clan ended the maestro's career.

rosaleen norton posing in her atelier


Rosaleen Norton occult painting


Rosaleen Norton Occult art


Rosaleen Norton pagan art


Pointed Ears

Born during a storm around 4:30 am in Dunedin, New Zealand, to English middle-class parents, Rosaleen Norton considered herself a witch based on biological characteristics such as pointed ears and blue marks on her left knee. Her family migrated to Sydney in 1925, settling in the affluent suburb of Wolseley Street, north of Lindfield. Alienated from her family, Norton lived in a tent in the garden for three years, keeping peculiar pets like cats, lizards, turtles, frogs, dogs, a goat, and a spider.

Bacchanal Rosaleen Norton

Fig.9. Bacchanal

Witch's Sabbath by Rosaleen Norton

Fig.10.  Witch's Sabbath

Goat by Rosaleen Norton


Rosaleen Norton performing an occult ritual


Demons and Vampires

Later expelled from the Church of England girls' school for drawing images of demons and vampires, she studied arts with sculptor Rayner Hoff at the East Sydney Technical College. After completing her arts studies, she embarked on a career as a professional writer. At sixteen, in 1934, her horror stories were published in Smith's Weekly, leading to work as a cadet journalist and later as a newspaper illustrator. However, her illustrations, deemed too controversial, resulted in her dismissal. Following her mother's death, Rosaleen Norton left her family's home, working variously as a model, hospital kitchen attendant, waitress, and toy designer.

occult painting by Rosaleen Norton


In Premium more about Norton's fascination for demonology, the four paintings by her that were removed from an exhibition in Melbourne, numerous additional pics of her controversial art, her later years, and much more...

Click HERE for the provocative 30s pulp cover art of Margaret Brundage