Seymour Lindsey was born in Richland County, Ohio in 1848. A house painter by trade and folk artist by avocation, he lived and worked in and around Lexington his entire life.
Little is known of his life, but much can be gleaned about his nature, especially his generosity and sense of humor, from his surviving work and from published anecdotes by those who knew him. Lindsey is best known for the intricate paper cut-outs that he created from single scraps and sheets of paper. He took his inspiration from nature, and surviving examples range from tiny "samples" of an ant climbing a blade of grass or a cricket perched on a twig, to out-size creations of fully-leaved trees containing squirrels, birds, and nests full of fledglings, surrounded by grass, fences, sheep and goats.

Lindsey framed many of his more detailed works, although it is apparent from the range of styles and ages of these frames that he rarely, if ever, bought one new. However, his framed pieces are almost all characterized by being mounted on dark blue or black carbon paper. The reason for this choice was probably more functional than decorative--the delicate cut-out could be easily arranged on the slightly gritty carbon paper, and would not slide around. For the collector, though, finding a carbon paper mat is added corroboration of the authenticity of a cut-out framed by Lindsey himself.
Mary Louise Crunkilton, his great-granddaughter, remembers him as a small, jolly man with a mustache. "He tried to teach me [to make cut-outs}," she recollects, "but I didn't learn very well." In his later years, she says, he sat on the front porch of his home in Lexington and gave small cut-outs to children on their way home from school. But cut-outs were more than just a hobby for Lindsey. Rhea Knittle reported that he charged 25 cents for a single cut-out, and 50 cents for two cut from the same piece of paper (The Magazine Antiques, January 1946); he also cut silhouettes in a booth at the world"s fair (Mansfield News-Journal).
Although Lindsey's cut-outs are the most sought-after examples of his work, ranging in price from the low hundreds for a small piece to the high hundreds for larger, highly-detailed examples, he also tried his hand at other crafts. Mrs. Crunkilton remembers wooden carvings of birds, and several tin cut-outs of roosters and quail have been reliably attributed to him.
Lindsey was a house and barn painter, and is reputed to have painted pastoral scenes on the sides of many Richland County barns. But it is his interior woodwork graining, and the stories about that graining, which illustrate Lindsey's individualism and his mischievous sense of humor.
Grain-painting was common on woodwork and floors throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Executed either to make new pine or poplar woodwork look like more expensive walnut, cherry or oak, or to renew the surface of older, painted woodwork, graining was part of the repertoire of most house painters.
But Lindsey was no ordinary house painter. Not only could he replicate every curve, check and swirl in a piece of quarter-sawn oak, but he could also execute superb monochromatic birds and animals using only the graining medium. Sometimes these images were frankly defined apart from the graining, as illustrated here.

More often, they were subtly incorporated into the graining itself. Lindsey reputedly grain-painted the pews in a local church, liberally decorating the backs with roosters, squirrels, quail and other creatures. Several months later, the minister asked him to come back and remove the pictures, explaining that the congregation found them "too distracting."
Sometimes Lindsey added these flourishes without the homeowner's knowledge. Scott Brown of Mansfield recounted such an example. Lindsey had been hired to paint Brown's grandfather's house and given specific orders not to "try any tricks with his brush." It was not until three years later that the family discovered, in an obscure corner, a painting of two roosters fighting. Embarrassed to admit that it had taken him so long to find it, Brown's grandfather never did take the issue up with Lindsey.
Seymour Lindsey died in 1927, and is buried in Lexington Cemetery. Examples of his extraordinary cut-outs and quirky graining occasionally surface however, keeping his humor and inventiveness alive in the imaginations of his fans everywhere.

Delagrange Antiques
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