She was born Frances McCarthy, and spent her childhood at Moonie Ponds, later made famous by Barry Humphries. On graduating from the University of Melbourne (Bachelor of Arts with a major in Fine Arts) she joined the staff of the National Gallery of Victoria as a guide-lecturer. A year later she had so impressed the senior staff, including the formidable Dr Ursula Hoff and the curator of Australian Art, Brian Finemore, that she was appointed as Assistant Curator, later Associate Curator of Australian Art. She was a part of the curatorial team for The Australian Landscape.
In 1972 she was appointed as Assistant Curator of Australian Art at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, working directly with Daniel Thomas. She was co-curator for Recent Australian Art, an exhibition that coincided with the opening of the Sydney Opera House in 1973. At the gallery she met her future husband, Robert Lindsay, who was an education officer. At the Art Gallery of New South Wales she initiated a series of project exhibitions examining different Australian artists, many contemporary but also some older unrecognised artists such as Clewin Harcourt.
In 1976 the Lindsays left Sydney and the Art Gallery of New South Wales to return to Melbourne where she was director of the gallery for the Victorian College of the Arts until 1978.In 1984 she was appointed Director of the University of Melbourne Art Gallery, and then became the founding Director of that university’s Ian Potter Museum of Art. Her curatorial practice was characterised by fine, detailed analysis combined with a strong visual sense. She also became good friends with many artists, collectors and patrons of the arts.
In 2000 Lindsay joined the National Gallery of Victoria as Deputy Director with overall curatorial responsibility for Australian art. In 2007, after the other deputy director, Tony Ellwood, was appointed to lead the Queensland Art Gallery, her position was expanded to include curatorial responsibility for the entire National Gallery of Victoria collection.


Joanna Mendelssohn
Date written:
Last updated: