Norman Lindsay's private campaign against so-called 'wowserism' and hypocrisy, particularly regarding attitudes towards sexuality, seems to have commenced early in life, perhaps even during his childhood, which was spent in the small Victorian goldrush town of Creswick. Lindsay's mother, a strict Methodist, was unable to quench her son's thirst for a less restrictive view of the world, and the artist turned from an early age to the world of mythology and history.
These worlds infused the artist's work from the earliest stages of his career. Moving from pencil drawings to etchings, and from watercolours to oil, Lindsay's focus never ventured far from the nude nymphs and satyrs for which he remains famous today.
As in The Curtain, Lindsay's nudes were predominantly female, a reflection of the artist's belief in the "'feminine dominant', an unconquerable earth mother. His women are unperturbed by their nakedness whether they are being carried away by pirates, or are discovered in the middle of a ballroom. The nude is always in full command of the situation, confident in the knowledge that she is admired and desired." (H. Glad in L. Bloomfield, (ed.), The World of Norman Lindsay, Sydney, 1995, p.138)
The stage-like setting of The Curtain was one used frequently by Lindsay, allowing him to infuse the scene with intense theatrical light. This displays to best advantage the satiny skin of his central female nude model, contrasting it with the extravagant fabrics featured in both the purple and blue dresses of her companions and the embossed red curtain. In the foreground, a dwarfed clown stares out to the left, perhaps at an audience to whom the scene is about to be revealed. The artist's work defies strong literary interpretation: "Norman Lindsay cannot be regarded as an artist with a message - to try and interpret a 'meaning' from the overflowing fantasy will only lead to confusion." (H.Glad, op.cit., p.138). Instead, the viewer is invited to embark on a sensory journey through the Lindsay's world: The Curtain an illustration of a fantasy world that melds sensual pleasures with supreme technical facility.