Joan à Beckett Weigall was born in St Kilda East, Victoria, Australia, the third daughter of Theyre à Beckett Weigall, a prominent judge who was related to the Boyd family, perhaps Australia's most famous and prolific artistic dynasty. Her mother was Ann Sophie Weigall née Hamilton.
From 1916 to 1919, Joan studied painting at the National Gallery of Victoria Art School, Melbourne. In 1920 she began sharing a Melbourne studio with Maie Ryan (later Lady Casey). Joan exhibited her watercolours and oils at two Melbourne exhibitions and also exhibited with the Victorian Artists Society.
Joan Weigall married Daryl Lindsay in London, on St. Valentine's Day 1922. The day was always a special occasion for her, and she set her most famous work, Picnic at Hanging Rock, on St. Valentine's Day.
When the couple returned to live in Australia, they renovated a farmhouse in Baxter, Mulberry Hill, and lived there until the Great Depression forced them to take up humble lodgings in Bacchus Marsh, renting out their home until the economic situation improved.
With that difficult experience behind them, Daryl abandoned painting to become Director of the National Gallery of Victoria, a position he held between 1942 and 1955. The position necessitated their relocation to Melbourne until his retirement. They retained their country home during their Victoria sojourn, however. Daryl was knighted in 1956, thus Joan became Lady Lindsay.
Her work Time Without Clocks describes her wedding and idyllic early married life. The work takes its title from a strange ability which Joan described herself as having, of stopping clocks and machinery when she came close. The title also plays on the idea that this period in her life was unstructured and free.
Lindsay also wrote several plays which remained unpublished, although one, Wolf, was performed. She contributed articles, reviews and stories to various magazines and newspapers on art, literature and prominent people. She and Daryl co-authored the History of the Australian Red Cross. She, Daryl, and Lord and Lady Casey were founding members of the National Trust of Victoria, and she encouraged others to bequeath to the Trust. Lady Lindsay was interested in the development of a national identity, and her novel Picnic at Hanging Rock - in Peter Weir's hands - was hailed as initiating a Renaissance in Australian film.
Daryl Lindsay died in 1976. Lady Lindsay died in Melbourne in 1984 of natural causes. The Lindsays had no children. They donated their Mulberry Hill house to the National Trust upon her death.
Picnic at Hanging Rock
Picnic at Hanging Rock is her best known work. It was made into a 1975 feature film by producers Patricia Lovell, Hal and Jim McElroy, and director Peter Weir. The story is fiction, though Lindsay dropped hints that it was based on an actual event. An ending that explained the girls' fates, in draft form, was excised by her publisher prior to publication. The final chapter was published only in the 1980s, in accordance with her wishes.
Lindsay based Appleyard College, the setting for the novel, on the school that she had attended, Clyde Girls Grammar School (Clyde School), at East St Kilda, Melbourne—which, incidentally, in 1919 was transferred to Woodend, Victoria, in the immediate vicinity of Hanging Rock itself.
- Through Darkest Pondelayo (1936), a satire on English tourists abroad
- Time Without Clocks (1962), an autobiographical sketch of her early married life
- Facts Soft and Hard (1964), an account of her travels with Daryl in the USA while he was on a Fulbright Award
- Picnic at Hanging Rock (1967),
- Syd Sixpence (1983), a children's book
- Adelaide, Debra (1988) Australian women writers: a bibliographic guide, London, Pandora
- Clifford-Smith, Silas (2008), 'Joan Lindsay', Dictionary of Australian Artists Online, , (biography of her art career)
- Theyre à Beckett Weigall (1860-1926) Gravesite at Brighton General Cemetery