National Gallery of Australia | Audio Tour | George.W.Lambert Retrospective
About this podcast
Audio guide to seventeen key works from the 2007 NGA George.W.Lambert Retrospective : heroes & icons shown at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. 29 June – 16 September 2007
The podcast National Gallery of Australia | Audio Tour | George.W.Lambert Retrospective is embedded on this page from an open RSS feed. All files, descriptions, artwork and other metadata from the RSS-feed is the property of the podcast owner and not affiliated with or validated by Podplay.
About this podcast
Audio guide to seventeen key works from the 2007 NGA George.W.Lambert Retrospective : heroes & icons shown at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. 29 June – 16 September 2007
The podcast National Gallery of Australia | Audio Tour | George.W.Lambert Retrospective is embedded on this page from an open RSS feed. All files, descriptions, artwork and other metadata from the RSS-feed is the property of the podcast owner and not affiliated with or validated by Podplay.
National Gallery of Australia | Audio Tour | George.W.Lambert Retrospective
George LAMBERT, Lotty and a lady 1906
In Lotty and a lady , Lambert presented an apparently everyday kitchen scene in which the housemaid, Lotty, is in command of her kitchen, looking out comfortably at the viewer. The lady, with head in profile and dressed for outdoors in hat and gloves, occupies the upper left of the scene. On the table is a carefully arranged still life with two fish, observed with precision. Neither mistress nor maid engage with these objects. They are lost in thought, posed as the still life. The model for the lady was Thea Proctor. The model for ‘Lotty’ was Lottie Stafford, a Cockney washerwoman living in the slum cottages of Paradise Walk in Chelsea. She was a popular model on account of her naturalness, total self-assurance and subtle sensuality. She had a ‘swan neck’ which greatly appealed to William Orpen, and which he emphasised in the series of works he painted around 1905 – including The wash house 1905 (National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin) – that deal with working-class themes. Lottie also posed for British artists William Nicholson and Walter Sickert. Lambert painted the work with assured brushstrokes in a restricted palette. He used broader paintwork for the main elements of the picture, with some remarkable crisp flicks of paint, and a more detailed and delicate handling for his depiction of the fish and other still-life details in the foreground. Lambert’s painterly approach and careful design reflects his desire to paint in the manner of Velázquez, and the image resembles Velázquez’s Kitchen scene with Christ in the house of Martha and Mary 1618 (National Gallery, London). As in a number of Velázquez’s works the viewpoints are organised so that we see the table and the objects from above while looking directly at the figures. But Lambert also suggested that he could not have painted Lotty’s head had he ‘not been so impressed by the work of Manet’ (ML MSS A1811, p.72). This apparently straightforward genre scene may also have symbolic significance. Lambert may have intended to depict one of the themes of Velázquez’s painting, the contemplative versus the active life, with the lady representing the contemplative or leisurely life and Lotty the world of work, necessary for the contemplative life. Lambert may also be presenting two aspects of one woman, the elegant public face as opposed to the domestic private self. Further, this painting may also be a comment on class relations. By portraying a housemaid sitting in the kitchen together with the mistress of the house, Lambert challenged traditional Edwardian social roles and behaviours. At this time servants were urged to make themselves invisible when in the presence of their employers, and to this extent the scene is stage-managed. Lotty is posed in a subversive manner with her hand defiantly on her hip, and she wears earrings, something that might be considered unusual for a servant girl. The subject is similar to those of several of Lambert's Bulletin illustrations in which he portrayed a mistress with a confident servant – with the servant usually getting the better of her mistress. The painting was acquired by the National Gallery of Victoria at the insistence of Sir Walter Baldwin Spencer, a gallery trustee, from its exhibition at the Guild Hall, Melbourne, in 1910. It was the first of Lambert's European paintings to be purchased for an Australian public collection, and the only one to be purchased while he lived abroad.
George LAMBERT, Chesham Street [Chesney Street; The Doctor; Harley Street] 1910
Chesham Street is one of a group of ‘puzzle pictures’ that Lambert painted between 1910 and 1914. These paintings appear to have a meaning and yet are not strictly narrative; they invite the viewer to provide their own interpretation. This is a bravura work that demonstrates Lambert’s considerable technical prowess but, more than this, it is a challenging and demanding image which asks ‘who is this man and what is going on?’. The man sits boldly in front of the viewer, holding up his shirt and revealing his entire torso. His head is held high, his lips are closed and he looks down at the viewer. His pale flesh, with the play of light on it, gleams against the dark surroundings. Lambert’s friend Hardy Wilson names ‘Williams, Lambert’s model’ as the source for the patient being sounded by a medical man (Wilson 1930, p.93) and Thea Proctor stated that it was the same model, once a sailor, who posed for the king in The shop(Thomas 1962). However, the features of the half-clad man resemble those of Lambert, and it is probable that Lambert intended to suggest a self-image (using the model’s body for the torso). The picture has been read narratively as a scene in a consulting room with a doctor examining the heart or lungs of his patient. Although Lambert does depict such a scene, this is not the subject of the painting, but the excuse for the composition. Dramatically, the painting is not about a physical examination at a specialist’s room in Chesham Street, London, but rather the psychological intrusiveness of that process. In 1901, Freud published his Psychopathology of everyday life and, during the decade, his ideas about exploring the psyche gained wider understanding. This man seems to have nothing to hide, to be literally and metaphorically baring his chest, exposing his heart and soul to the world. Contemporary critics in Britain, such as P.G. Konody in the Observer on 27 May 1910, acknowledged the ‘truly masterly painting of a male form’. When the painting was later exhibited in Australia, Lambert’s friends also recognised that the subject provided a splendid opportunity for the presentation of nudity. But this is not strictly a male nude. The figure is not naked; he is half clothed and is intentionally shown in this way to give the image greater impact and to make it more sexually charged. Lambert also had a technical concern in painting this work: he used the subject as an opportunity to depict the male torso using a monochromatic approach, with the play of light on the pale surface of the skin contrasted against the shaded head
George LAMBERT, Miss Helen Beauclerk 1914
The British writer Helen de Vere Beauclerk (1892–1969) was born Helen Mary Dorothea Bellingham. Her father, a major in the army, died in India a year after her birth, and she was adopted by a close family friend, Major Ferdinand de Vere Beauclerk. She studied at the Paris Conservatoire, and for a short time earned her living teaching music and accompanying on the piano. She returned to England at the outbreak of the First World War. She became a close friend of the artist Edmund Dulac and, after he separated from his wife, lived with him from 1924 until his death in 1953. Dulac frequently used her as a model for his illustrations, and illustrated her two novels, The green lacquer pavilion (1926) and The love of the foolish angel (1929). She also wrote Mountain and the tree (1935) and Shadows on the wall (1941) and translated into English work by Colette. She was tall and slender with a long neck, and dressed simply and elegantly. Lambert captured Helen Beauclerk’s face brilliantly, suggesting the pulsating life under her skin. He reminded viewers of her physicality by showing her putting on her gloves, one bare hand stroking down a gloved index finger on the other hand. At the time that he painted this portrait Lambert began to emphasise the hands of his sitters, which he invested with a degree of nervous energy, as he did in this painting. As well as creating a likeness of his fascinating subject, Lambert was interested in the beauty and texture of the whole of his paint surface. The background is thinly painted in expressive dabs in many colours, including chrome yellow, blue, purple and black. Contemporary critics appreciated the abstract, decorative qualities of this painting, as much as its likeness. The Observer critic, P.G. Konody, noted on 17 June 1917, ‘These portraits are convincing and full of character; but the interest aroused by the life-like representation is never allowed to distract attention from the more abstract qualities of the work’. The portrait was purchased by the Art Gallery of New South Wales when first exhibited in Australia at the Fine Art Society in 1921. It was their first purchase of Lambert’s work since the 1890s.
George LAMBERT, Across the black soil plains 1899
Lambert’s best-known bush image, Across the blac k soil plains was inspired by his memories of horse teams hauling heavily laden wool wagons across the bare, miry, flat lands of Snakes Plain from Warren to the railway station at Nevertire. He encountered this landscape while droving sheep in the 1890s and was reminded of it during a visit to Warren in 1899. Lambert suggested that Jim Smith, a known identity of the district, was the model for the teamster walking beside the wool wagon and urging the horses onwards (ML MSS A1811, p.54). It has also been claimed that the teamster was Luke Rollins from Moree, and Henry Sharkey, who carried a record load from Louth to Bourke. By portraying the rhythmic rise and fall of the horses’ heads and the tilt of the wagon, Lambert created a sense of movement in his image. The horses strain as they pull the load through the mud which sticks to their hoofs like glue, with the leader leaning into the chains to pull others into line. He dramatised the scene by placing the horses in silhouette against the sky and using the chiaroscuro of light and dark, showing the light making its way through the billowing clouds and illuminating the horses’ backs. In adopting a low viewpoint Lambert also made the team dominate the image. Apart from the blue in the sky the painting is a harmony of tonally balanced browns, beiges and white. Placing the large canvas diagonally across the garden shed or washhouse at his mother’s home in the Sydney suburb of Hornsby, Lambert began to work on it. He had made colour notes of the landscape, as well as sketches of Jim Smith’s team of horses while staying at Meryon in about 1895–6 (ML MSS A1811, p.17). He commented that: As a boy in the bush I did much work with draft [sic] horses ... [One] called Barney had such fine action and such imposing carriage ... and possibly what knowledge I displayed in connection with horses in ‘Black Soil Plains’ originated with my association with this exceptionally fine animal (ML MSS A1811, pp.54–5). He later scoured the area around his mother’s home for further models for the horses, and for each one in the team he made two or three oil studies (ML MSS A1811, pp.54–5). The painting echoes the spirit of a poem by the Scottish–Australian narrative poet and horseman, Will Ogilvie, ‘How the Fire Queen crossed the swamp’. This poem, published in Ogilivie’s first collection, Fair girls and gray horses (Sydney, 1898), included the lines: With straining muscles and tightened chains – sixteen pulling like one; With jingling harness and droning wheels and bare hoofs’ rhythmic tramp, With creaking timbers and lurching load the Fire Queen faced the swamp! Across the black soil plains inspired other poems such as ‘Across the black soil plains’ by ‘Mousquetaire’ (Gordon Tidy), which was published in the Bulletin , 30 October 1902 and was illustrated by Lambert’s painting. O nobly manned must be the land, and nobly horsed as well, Has such a sight as this to show, such story has to tell, The teamster who so sternly strides, the team so strongly strains Till stride and strength be come at length across the Black Soil Plains The picture received an enthusiastic response from contemporary critics. The Sydney Morning Herald wrote on 18 August 1899 ‘In this long narrow canvas the young artist paints with astonishing vigour and sense of movement ... in every conceivable attitude the horses tug and strain at the heavy load.’ It was purchased by the Art Gallery of New South Wales at the New South Wales Society of Artists exhibition in 1899 and was subsequently awarded the 1899 Wynne Prize for landscape painting. More critical of his own work than many others, Lambert wrotein the Australian Magazine , 18 September 1899: It is strong, ‘masculine’ if you like; the horses are well drawn and painted, the movement and action are ‘all there,’ the teamster (and his dog) are realistic, the sky is good, the colour is harmonious, the subject is popular, and the picture has been purchased for the National Art Gallery – what more can we say? This: that when G.W. Lambert has studied and worked hard for a few more years, both here and abroad (as we hope he will) – well, then he may paint the ‘picture of the year’. The painting inspired variations in other media such as Tom Woodman’s glass painting Load of wool 1940, at the Carinda Hotel, New South Wales, as well as a plaster version. About 1855 Edward Roper painted a landscape entitled Bringing down the wool from a Murray station (National Library of Australia, Canberra), which included a bullock team with a load of wool. Frank Mahony also treated the subject of a wool wagon several times. These images have none of the action or drama of Lambert’s painting, nor the spirit of place. Out of the particular and the personal Lambert created an enduring icon conveying the toil of man and horse and their relationship with the land.
George LAMBERT, Self-portrait with gladioli 1922
In Self-portrait with gladioli Lambert deliberately depicted himself as a precious, self-assured aesthete. In this, he visualised the thoughts expressed in a letter to Amy on 25 November 1921: I am a luxury, a hot house rarity ... Scoffed at for preciousness. Despised for resembling a chippendale chair in a country where timber is cheap (ML MSS 97/10, p.379). He was a dedicated artist who worked to the point of exhaustion, but he portrayed himself, not as he was, but as the affected, self-admiring dandy he thought others considered him to be. To paint himself thus required, as the critic for the Australasian newspaper suggested on 24 February 1923, ‘courage, self-analysis and amazing technical skill’. His gaze is quizzical; he placed himself under self-scrutiny. He stood in an apparently careless attitude, but studiously posed, with his hands splayed out and showing ‘articulations of nerve and sinew’. Lambert was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy on 23 November 1922 – the only Australian painter ever to be so honoured. This self-portrait might be viewed as Lambert’s statement of achievement. He stands smiling, in his artistic brown velvet gown, with a purple scarf around his neck and a vase of gladioli before him, like someone who has just received a medal on a ribbon and a bouquet of flowers. In other self-portraits such as Self-portrait c.1907 (cat.37) he depicted himself with a paintbrush in hand, but here he showed himself posing. Lambert’s stance in this portrait resembles that of the first President of the Royal Academy, Sir Joshua Reynolds, in his Self-portrait c.1780 (Royal Academy, London), in which, dressed in his academic robes, he stands aristocratically with his right hand on his hip (although not with his left arm raised). Lambert’s pose could also be viewed as a witty adaptation of the classical marble sculpture, the Hermes Logios , an image of the god of eloquence, who, like Lambert in this portrait, stands with one arm raised, as if speaking. Gladioli are the birth flower of those born between 22 August and 22 September, as Lambert was. Gladiolus is derived from the Latin word gladius , meaning sword, on account of the shape of its leaves, which look like a two-edged sword; gladioli are sometimes known as sword lilies. In Roman times the flowers were presented to victorious gladiators. The flower is thus a symbol for victory. It can also symbolise strength of character. But in addition to being a portrait of achievement and victory, this painting is also a portrait of jest, of self-mockery. It is an image which brings to mind the lines in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Patience (1881), which caricature the aesthete: Though the Philistines may jostle, you will rank as an apostle in the high aesthetic band, If you walk down Piccadilly with a poppy or a lily in your mediaeval hand. And every one will say, As you walk your flowery way, ‘If he’s content with a vegetable love which would certainly not suit me, Why, what a most particularly pure young man this pure young man must be!’ In his Self-portrait with gladioli Lambert presented himself in his velvet gown with tongue in cheek. He showed himself with not one poppy or lily, but a whole bunch of gladioli to show ‘how he ranked as an apostle in the high aesthetic band’. As much as suggesting Lambert’s arrogance, it indicates his sense of humour and his delight in creating conceits. Some of his former colleagues (like Hardy Wilson), perhaps jealously, thought he had became enamoured of praise, and they no doubt considered this portrait to be a true expression of his being. C.R. Bradish described him in Table Talk, 14 July 1927, as being ‘tricked out in brocade’, ‘strutting bloated with its whole consequence’, but then asked ‘why should not George Lambert be vain?’. ‘His precision as a painter, his occasional magnificence as a draughtsman … entitle him to stand among Australian painters wearing a crown of gold feathers if he feels that way’. However, not everyone maintained Lambert was lordly: the Sydney Mail reported on 13 September 1922 that he scorned any reference to ‘artistic genius’, and that he preferred ‘to be told by a critic that he had “done his job well,” as one might address a bricklayer’. Self-portrait with gladioli was purchased in Adelaide, in 1923 by a private collector, T.E. Barr-Smith, at its first exhibition (‘Lambert and Heysen: An exhibition of portraiture, still life, and landscape’, at Preece’s Gallery). The price, £1000, was the highest paid for a work by Lambert during his life. It was not publicly shown again until Lambert’s memorial loan exhibition in Sydney in 1930, although it was widely known through its reproduction as a frontispiece in The art of George W. Lambert, published in 1924.
George LAMBERT, The squatter's daughter 1923-24
The squatter’s daughter created a stir in Australia when it was first exhibited in 1924 because Lambert was concerned with creating a new way of painting Australian landscape. He assimilated the blue-and-gold palette that Streeton had used to convey the heat and glare of the Australian scene, but he moved from an intuitive response to the land to a more formalist approach. He counterbalanced the strong verticals of the trees with the triangular shape of the hill and the horizontal streak of green grass in the lower centre of the picture. He painted with tight, controlled brushstrokes, so the image seems still, but lifelike, with the trees and grass embalmed by a sharp, scintillating light. He observed in around 1927 that ‘when the Apple gum gilded by the dying sun comes up for technical analysis, the memories of Giorgione’s famous tree ... make it look more beautiful’ (ML MSS 97/8, item 5). The illusionism of the scene encourages us to look at it as an image of a particular person in a specific place at a certain time – as a picture of Gwendoline ‘Dee’ Ryrie in white shirt and jodhpurs leading her horse (which Lambert had given her) across the family property, Micalago, during the Christmas and New Year of 1923–24. Lambert’s prime interest, however, in The squatter’s daughter was in conveying a universal squatter’s daughter. He gave it a generic title rather than the specific ‘Gwendoline Ryrie at Micalago’ , to indicate that it was an image of Australian life. Lambert attacked the intuitive approach to landscape and, in response, critics such as Howard Ashton maintained that Lambert’s work lacked emotion. But this was his aim. He advised young landscape painters that there was always perfect design in nature and that they should reduce it to definite forms, as he had simplified the mass of the hill and sharpened its outline in The squatter’s daughter . He portrayed the figure of the squatter’s daughter as if she were located artificially in her environment, as if she were a cut-out shape pasted onto it. He described her as passing ‘gracefully across the foreground’ and looking ‘like a figure on a Greek vase’ (ML MSS 97/8, item 5), indicating that he purposely presented her in profile in an arranged pose and detached from her setting. He intentionally created a stylised view. That the girl is not immersed in the landscape (as in A bush idyll c.1896, cat.3), but merely passes across the land, is appropriate. By the 1920s many Australian landowners did not need to work their properties themselves but were able to employ others to do so, and a number of city dwellers had the time and money to visit the rural areas for their health and for recreation. The squatter’s daughter reflects this new relationship of Australians with the land. Lambert’s formalist response in this paintinginspired other painters. Hans Heysen wrote on 20 August 1924 that it was ‘different from anything else painted in Australia’ (ML MSS 285/87), and in 1930 that it was a picture which ‘in its search for character and form’, was ‘an object lesson for the young landscape painters of Australia’ (Lambert 1930). In 1931, Lionel Lindsay commented: When the ‘Squatter’s Daughter’ was first shown, to the best of my knowledge, only three Australian artists proclaimed its originality and truth. Such a break with suave sentiment and surface drawing met with a protective opposition – here was almost attack upon established income. It was pronounced hard, untrue, unsympathetic. To-day we know this landscape to possess the largest local truth, supreme draughtsmanship and design, and to exhale the very spirit of Australia (AA 1931). As a result of Lambert’s example and his denunciation of the sentimental Australian landscape, artists began to make changes in their work. They came to believe that they should now explore organic form, seek greater simplicity and use sharper contours. Lambert thought highly of The squatter’s daughter , asking 500 guineas for it at a time when he received only £500 for his most significant battle painting, The charge of the 3rd Light Horse Brigade at the Nek 1924 (cat.95), on which he worked for several years. Lambert sold The squatter’s daughter to George Pitt-Rivers in England in 1926. Henry Lawson had published a poem called ‘The squatter’s daughter’ in 1889, of which Lambert no doubt was aware. It related the story of a wealthy squatter who encouraged his daughter to become engaged to a wealthy lordling; however, she elopes with a stockman instead. Eventually the father becomes reconciled with the daughter and son-in-law. In 1910 a silent film was produced, based on a 1907 stage melodrama with the same title and same cast. It was written by Edmund Duggan and Bert Bailey. In 1933 The squatter’s daughter , a sound film, featured a strong young horsewoman in jodhpurs who saves the family property.
George LAMBERT, Anzac, the landing 1915 1920-2
On 25 April 1915 Australian and New Zealand troops landed on Gallipoli at dawn. It was one of two main assaults on the Gallipoli peninsula. The Anzacs were to land near the promontory of Gaba Tepe, about halfway up the peninsula, while British forces landed at Cape Helles, at its southern tip. The two forces were to converge on the central mass of the Kilid Bahr Plateau, which dominated the Dardanelles Strait. The Anzac troops had expected open country, but instead were confronted with steep, scrub-covered heights, and climbed the precipitous cliffs under Turkish gunfire. Lambert depicted the landing at the moment when the Australian troops were climbing the steep, rocky hillside. He showed the hugeness of the landscape and the smallness of the men. He portrayed many of the soldiers as dead, or falling, with puffs of smoke in the sky. He wrote: visitors to the Museum ... complain there is a lack of fire, a lack of action and of the terror of war, but on the facts ... we must accept that men equipped as these men were, moving upwards on this particular place, without any idea of where the enemy was, what they had to do, would look just like this small swarm of ants climbing, no matter how rapidly, climbing painfully and laboriously upward through the uneven ground and spiky uncomfortable shrubs (ML MSS A1811, p.75). Lambert portrayed the scene looking up at the cliffs and the mass of soldiers clambering up them, a different perspective from the majority of interpretations of this event, such as Charles Dixon’s The landing at Anzac, 25 April 1915 (Archives, New Zealand) which showed the scene from above with the men climbing out of boats and wading ashore. By adopting this viewpoint Lambert made the seemingly inaccessible heights seem as much the enemy as the Turkish forces. Through his massive canvas, the harsh jagged outline of the cliff and the dark brown mass of the terrain silhouetted against a strident yellowed sky, Lambert conveyed the psychological impact of climbing these slopes. He helped viewers realise the endurance of the soldiers clambering upwards. Through his use of colour and abstract forms, he evoked the emotion of the occasion. And he showed the soldiers as small, faceless figures to create a visual metaphor for the scant regard in which these Australians’ lives were held by those in charge of the campaign. Lambert obtained facts about the landing from the Australian official historian C.E.W. Bean and other members of the Australian Historical Mission during his visit to Gallipoli in February–March 1919. At that time he painted oil sketches of the terrain at Gallipoli. Back in his London studio he made pencil studies of his models, dressed in uniform, as if climbing a steep cliff. From these, and from his oil sketches made on site, Lambert prepared a pencil design of the composition and a rough oil sketch. His son Maurice, an aspiring sculpture student, assisted his father by preparing the canvas and transferring the design onto it from Lambert’s composition drawing. The canvas, advanced this far, was rolled up and shipped out to Australia in February 1921. In Australia, Lambert was assisted by Louis McCubbin, who helped by under-painting the sky, which Lambert worked over afterwards. McCubbin’s assistance was of a mechanical kind, and not visible on the surface of the painting. Alexander Colquhoun reviewed the painting in the Melbourne Herald on 4 May 1922. He wrote: This is not a pretty picture, nor a cheerful one, and there is an uncanny lack of anything individual or personal in the scrambling, crawling, khaki figures scarcely discernible against the rocky precipitous ground. It speaks, however, as a declaration of sacrifice and achievement in a way that no other war picture has done. Colquhoun understood that by representing these Australians climbing this specific cliff, Lambert conveyed the universal experience of people overcoming obstacles. The painting was commissioned by the Australian government through the Australian High Commission in London in 1919, for £500, as part of the official war art scheme. Lambert began the painting in London and completed it in Sydney for the opening exhibition of the Australian War Museum, Melbourne, on Anzac Day 25 April 1922.
George LAMBERT, Recumbent figure of a soldier (Unknown soldier) [Unknown soldier] 1928-31
Recumbent figure of a soldier is a starkly simple, natural image of a typical Australian digger. Lambert portrayed this soldier with a bullet hole in his left breast, his right arm reaching towards this wound as if to still the pain, and through his frowning brow capturing the soldier’s last spasm. Particular attention is given to the accuracy of the uniform: there is caked mud on the puttees and the soles of the boots are shown as being slightly worn. In this sculpture, Lambert commented on the human condition, creating a peaceful vision of death by showing the soldier looking ‘through closed eye lids at something he can no more understand than you & I can understand’(ML MSS 97/3, p.105). On viewing the plaster the Sydney Morning Herald ’s critic was struck by the natural expression on the soldier’s face and observed on 29 June 1929 that the figure had a ‘smile of peace’ and read it as ‘satisfaction at a duty nobly done’. The soldier’s calm appearance led the Sydney Morning Herald ’s commentator to remark on 7 March 1931 that ‘death in war would be beautiful if it only came thus’. The soldier’s long, lean body was typical of the Light Horsemen in Palestine; his face was, as Lambert suggested ‘Australian yet handsome’ (ML MSS 97/3, p.105), and as the Sydney Morning Herald ’s commentator perceptively observed on 7 March 1931, like those on the Sydney beaches. During the war a number of artists portrayed their fellow soldiers as rough and awkward, but by the end of the war artists began to create heroic images in which the Anzacs were ennobled and portrayed as bronzed heroes. Lambert’s soldier is in this tradition: he is an idealised national champion who was part of contemporary cultural attitudes and values and who became an integral part of the Australian identity. Lambert received his commission to make ‘one bronze recumbent figure of Soldier life size’ from the Roman Catholic Sailors and Soldiers on 19 April 1928 – for £1200 (ML MSS 97/7, item 28). He had made several pencil studies for the figure then, once the commission was confirmed, made a full-size plaster figure cast from clay. His assistant Sten Snekker was the model. Snekker and the clothed plaster figure then lay on two benches, side by side, while Lambert explored minor variations in the dress on the plaster figure. From this Lambert moulded a second clay model on a third bench. He asked Murch to assist him in modelling the figure, and gave Murch credit for this by asking him to co-sign the sculpture. Lambert held a private view of the plaster in June 1929, before it was sent to London for casting into bronze. The final work was unveiled at St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney, by Archbishop Kelly on 26 July 1931, after Lambert’s death. As Australia did not have an official tomb of the unknown soldier until 1993, Lambert’s recumbent figure came to be known informally as Australia’s ‘Monument to the unknown soldier’.
George LAMBERT, Miss Thea Proctor 1903
Australian printmaker, designer, painter and teacher Thea Proctor (1879–1966) was significant in Lambert’s life as a friend, colleague and model. She studied with Julian Ashton in Sydney where Lambert was a fellow student. Chaperoned by her mother, she arrived in England in the summer of 1903 and sat for Lambert during the autumn in his studio flat at Lansdowne House, Lansdowne Road, Holland Park, London (AGNSWQ 1962). For this portrait Proctor wore her customary summer outfit for 1903, a softly flowing dark-blue-purple polka-dot dress, the pouched front a special feature of the time, together with a wide-brimmed hat. Throughout her life, Proctor presented herself as a woman who was aware of what was stylish, while adapting current trends to her own highly personal sense of elegance. Lambert arranged his twenty-three-year-old sitter with an imaginary landscape behind her in the manner of earlier artists such as Thomas Gainsborough. He also worked in the tradition of the prominent society portrait painter, Charles Furse, who created a vogue for airy outdoor portraits. Like Furse, Lambert used fluid paint and superimposed dark shapes against light. He gave Proctor a sophisticated elegance by elongating her neck, torso and limbs. In his modelling of paint he suggested the tactile sensuousness of the skin and fabric he depicted. The languorous, rhythmical forms are in harmony with the rounded shapes of Proctor’s face and the sleeves of her dress. In the landscape behind Proctor Lambert depicted two hounds pursuing a white stag or a unicorn (a fabled creature symbolic of virginity). This small detail provides two possible, divergent, interpretations of the painting. If it is a stag, this could refer to the Greek myth of Artemis, goddess of abundance, fertility, hunting and longevity, who was furious when she discovered the mortal hunter Acteon watching her naked. As a punishment, she turned him into a stag and set his hounds upon him to tear him apart. If the animal is a unicorn it could refer to the maiden in the Hunt of the unicorn tapestries (The Cloisters, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), who tames the unicorn with her charms after huntsmen and hounds pursue the animal and bring it to bay. In painting this portrait Lambert may also have been influenced by two (or three) remarkable works that he saw in the National Gallery when he first arrived in London: Rubens’s Le chapeau de paille c.1625 and Hogarth’s The shrimp girl c.1745. At this time Lambert suggested that Hogarth’s painting ‘fairly carried [him] off his feet’ (ML MSS A1811, pp.55–6). In his treatise, The analysis of beauty , Hogarth recommended the essence of beauty lies in the ‘line of grace’, or ‘line of beauty’, against the straight lines of academic classicism. This florid, ‘serpentine line’, was the fluid aesthetic that Lambert adopted at this time, and especially in this portrait. Like Rubens, Lambert painted his subject in a pose of modesty with a sideways glance. But unlike that of Susannah Fourment (Rubens’s subject in Le chapeau de paille ), Proctor’s bosom is not openly displayed, but fully clothed, perhaps to reinforce this modesty. Lambert was not by any means the first to refer to Rubens’s painting in his own, and he may also have been referencing the work of the most famous female painter of the eighteenth century, Elisabeth Vigée-LeBrun, and her Self-portrait in a straw hat c.1782 (National Gallery, London), painted in free imitation of Rubens’s work. This was the first painting which Lambert exhibited at the Royal Academy (in 1904), where it was prominently hung. For many years it remained in the possession of the Lamberts. Amy Lambert gave it to the sitter in 1946.
George LAMBERT, Important people c.1914, 1915, 1921
Who are these important people? Lambert presented a group of ordinary people at a time when the subjects of group portraits were often people with wealth or status in society. He mocked the assumption that importance is a matter of money or property. He created an allegorical image representing a range of qualities that are possessed by people in the world: motherhood and the new life and energy of future generations; physical prowess and the fighting forces of the world; business and administrative acumen; and the ongoing activities of the world, represented by the red cartwheel. Lambert’s portrayal of these working people and his strong characterisation appealed to his contemporaries, but they found it an enigma; they were puzzled about the subject and how the oddly assorted group of figures fitted together into one scene. They considered it to be a most incongruous group, made more so by being grouped in front of a cart above the sea. They would have preferred a more literal story to Lambert’s allegorical one. The Observer critic, P.G. Konody, suggested on 26 April 1914 that ‘one could accept it as a triumphant assertion of the theory that it does not matter what a picture represents, so long as it be well painted’. The Daily Express critic observed on 16 April 1914 that the flower girl has her momentary importance since the advent of Eliza Doolittle and her ‘horrible language’; the prize fighter has as big a public following as the musical comedy ‘star’; and on the importance of babies Blue-books and Royal Commissions galore have often insisted. The reviewer proceeded to ask of the gentleman with the top hat in Lambert’s painting, ‘is he a stockbroker’ or ‘merely a professor of phonetics?’. In his most famous play, Pygmalion (1912), George Bernard Shaw made fun of social snobbery and the way people judged others according to class. Important people was not an illustration of Shaw’s writing, but it was a variation on his socialist ideas, showing a flower girl and a prize-fighter posing with the authority of eminent citizens. The woman who initially posed for the mother, flower girl or costermonger was a professional model, a young unmarried mother from Battersea whose baby, shown in the rush basket, died while the painting was in progress. (Lambert reworked the head a year later, using another model, Eunice Graham; see the drawing, cat.56.) The model for the boy was a boxer, Albert Broadrib, who was training for his first fight and who Amy Lambert said arrived ‘escorted by a bodyguard of one or more trainers, who watched over his feeding and smoking’ (Lambert 1938, p.55). The model for the businessman was William Marchant, the head of Goupil Gallery, a man of great charm and affability who had retired to Hove but travelled to London for the sittings. Lambert made several pencil sketches for various figures in the group. The signature with the inscription ‘Chelsea/Sydney’ indicates that he reworked the painting again in the second part of 1921. Lambert commented that although ‘many people think this picture was influenced by certain movements which were going on in London’ his approach was more influenced by the Italian primitives and Botticelli. It was a ‘desire to create a picture which would look good in any light ... It was the working within a fixed limitation, a little span of which Puvis was so proud ... It was the beginning ... of a reverence of rule, of order’ (ML MSS A1811, p.76). It was a decorative composition, a concern with the arrangement of shapes. To this end Lambert deliberately flattened the forms, placing an emphasis on line and strong design. He intentionally used a high-key, pastel palette and created a dry, chalky texture for his paint, ‘working wax and turpentine into his paint to do away with shininess and the unevenness of surface’ (Lambert 1924, p.15). He drew with pencil into his paint to outline the figures. Lambert’s decorative and colourful arrangement of figures in fixed poses, nonetheless, resembles those in the paintings of Eric Kennington, William Strang and other British realists with whom Lambert exhibited. Important people was shown in 1914 alongside Kennington’s Costermongers , and the reviewer for the Daily Mail , 24 April 1914, described these paintings as ‘huge staring groups of life-size people, represented in a brutal airless way, though with a great deal of technical cleverness’, and acknowledged that they were protests against the ‘namby-pambiness’ of the usual group compositions. When exhibited at the International Society’s 1914 exhibition, Important people was a succès de scandale. It received greater critical attention than any of Lambert’s previous works, with the reviewer from the Daily Express suggesting on 16 April 1914 that the painting would ‘provide dinner-table discussion for the next fortnight’. Although highly admired and greatly controversial during his lifetime, this painting was still owned by Lambert at the time of his death. The Australian critic Basil Burdett wrote that ‘Important People assumed its place unchallenged as the most complete pictorial essay’ in Lambert’s memorial exhibition, and went further to suggest that it was ‘perhaps the most important pictorial conception achieved by Lambert’
George LAMBERT, Henry Lawson Memorial 1927-31
Henry Lawson (1867–1922) wrote poetry and short stories about Australian life which had a popular appeal; he became a legendary figure in his lifetime. He established a natural colloquial voice and wrote in a lucid, understated prose style, with immense sympathy for the hard lives of those who lived in the bush. His stories include ‘The drover’s wife’, and two of his collections, While the billy boils (1896) and Joe Wilson and his mates (1901), remain classics of Australian literature. Like the majority of Australians, Lawson lived in a city and had limited experience of country life. During his last twenty years he only wrote spasmodically, as he suffered from alcoholism and mental illness. He was the first Australian writer to be granted a state funeral, attended by the Prime Minister, Billy Hughes, and the Premier of New South Wales, Jack Lang. Lawson’s image appeared on Australia’s first ten-dollar note, issued in 1966 (ADB). In this sculpture Lambert created a lifelike, roughly dressed individual, accompanied by a swagman, a dog and a fence post, an image that was eminently natural and Australian. The Sydney Morning Herald critic suggested on 26 March 1930 that ‘the central figure shows a remarkable likeness to the poet’, and certainly Lambert portrayed him with his identifiable bushy eyebrows and moustache. He faithfully captured the posture and dress of a particular man at a specific time, but he was concerned principally with evoking a state of mind: he showed Lawson making the gesture he usually did when he was searching for a thought or reciting verse. By showing Lawson in the company of a swagman (‘Sundowner’ was the term in 1930) and dog, Lambert suggested the poet’s allegiance to the poor and humble, and created a visual metaphor of Australian mateship. Lambert’s carefully constructed but understated work embodies the poet’s prose style, which was consciously crafted to have a natural effect. Such a laconic naturalness has become an identifiably Australian characteristic, and to this extent Lambert’s approach in this work also conveys an Australian attitude. The sculpture also has a more general aspect: the swagman and his dog could be characters from one of Lawson’s bush stories. The old man hints at the older Lawson himself, a man who became a dishevelled figure as a result of alcoholism and mental illness. In this way Lambert created a specific image of the two ages of Lawson, and a universal one of the two ages of man. Lawson’s son Jim posed for the figure of Lawson, and the model for the swagman was Conrad von Hagen (Wilson 2004, p.145). Lambert, however, went beyond mere likeness: Lawson’s pose, with his outstretched right arm and stooped back, resembles that of St John in Rodin’s St John the Baptist preaching 1878–80, which Lambert may have known from the cast presented to the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1902. The seated swagman in this sculpture, his right hand held up to his face and left arm relaxed over his knee, may derive from Rodin’s best known work, The thinker 1880, which Lambert may have known from a cast which was acquired by the National Gallery of Victoria in 1921. The pose of the standing figure is also like that of the classical marble sculpture Hermes Logios , the god of oratory. And as noted above (see cats 102, 103), the pose of Lambert’s loose-kneed gesturing figure of Lawson also resembles that of Michelangelo’s marble sculpture Bacchus 1497 (Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence), and that of the swagman is similar to Michelangelo’s depiction of the prophet Jeremiah in the Sistine Chapel, Rome. The sculpture was formally commissioned by the organising committee of the Henry Lawson Memorial Fund on 18 November 1927, though Lambert had been notified of his selection in December 1926. The committee had raised funds from the public, including thousands of school children (ML MSS 97/7, item 27). The brief had specified a work of art which showed Lawson as an Australian of the bush, as well as an accurate bronze likeness of him. The sculpture had to be dressed as a bush worker without coat or vest, with his shirt open to the neck, close fitting trousers (not riding breeches), boots of the type worn by Australian soldiers during the war and a soft felt hat which had lost its stiffness (ML MSS 97/5). Apart from the soft felt hat, Lambert’s sculpture met the committee’s specification. In 1926 Lambert had made several pencil studies for this group, and a sketch for the proposed group in its Sydney parkland setting. The final work was unveiled in the Domain, Sydney, on 28 July 1931 by the Governor of New South Wales, Sir Philip Game.
George LAMBERT, The convex mirror c.1916
This painting presents a group of people in a reflected image. They stand in the low-beamed living-room of Belwethers, a cottage in the village of Cranleigh. The former country cottage of Mrs Halford, Lambert’s patron and friend, had been taken over by her daughter Mary and her son-in-law Sir Edmund Davis after her death in 1915. Sir Edmund stands at the window in the background; his wife, dressed in black, sits at the table; a maid serves tea; Amy Lambert, dressed in blue, stands; Sir Edmund’s sister-in-law Amy Halford sits with her hands on her lap; and the artist looks out of the image in the foreground. The oak beams in the ceiling take up half the picture and become, in the reflection, curved instead of straight lines, causing the design to flow in a circle – disturbing the very solidity of the room. It is a jewel-like piece of painting, with the lustre of a looking-glass, in which Lambert explored the distinction between how things appear in the picture or in a mirror, or how they are in life itself. He placed the artist within the painting on a separate plane from the other people within the scene, and showed him ignoring them and looking out to the viewer – observing the entire scene through a convex mirror. His hand thrusts forward, without a brush, spread wide as it would when distorted in a mirror. In 1916 Lambert visited Cranleigh, Surrey, when his son Constant became seriously ill with osteomyelitis while he was a scholarship pupil at Christ’s Hospital school in Horsham, West Sussex. (Cranleigh is situated halfway between Guildford and Horsham.) Constant’s condition was so grave that Lambert and Amy moved to Cranleigh to be near him. To pass the time, and determined not to give way to brooding over his sick son, Lambert painted The convex mirror , the reflection of a room in this cottage. Yet Lambert captured some of his sadness at the death of Mrs Halford (who acted as a grandmother to his children) and his anxiety over his son’s illness, as well as the universal unease and apprehension created by the First World War, in the way he presented the world through a convex mirror – disturbed and distorted. Lambert carefully constructed the painting, drawing the lines of the beams and other structural elements onto the wood panel before commencing the painting. He used fine brushes to convey the scene. In addition to his masterful depiction of the illusion of a room viewed through a convex mirror, he also captured a soft light coming through the windows and lighting up the tablecloth and the cane chair. Lambert saluted the sixteenth-century Italian mannerist painter Parmigianino’s illusionist tour-de-force, Self-portrait in a convex mirr or 1523–24 (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna) in this painting. Like Parmigianino Lambert painted his work by looking at himself (and the others in the room) in a curved mirror and then recreating the effect. As in Parmigianino’s work, he captured the way the mirror widens the scene, enlarging everything nearby and making everything distant seem further away. But most significantly, like the Italian master, he created a display of virtuosity. Many artists have included a convex mirror in their work, such as van Eyck in The Arnolfini portrait 1434 (National Gallery, London) in which the mirror probably reflects the painter himself; Quentin Massys in The moneylender and his wife 1514 (Musée du Louvre, Paris), which reflects the artist and the outer world into the picture; and Caravaggio in Martha and Mary Magdalene c.1598 (Detroit Institute of Arts, Michigan), in which the artist used the mirror to enable Martha to reproach Mary for her vanity. The mirror device was fashionable at the turn of the century, and frequently used by artists such as William Orpen. Orpen depicted himself reflected in a convex mirror on the wall behind his subjects in both The mirror 1900 (Tate, London) and A Bloomsbury family 1907 (Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh) – a device Orpen borrowed from van Eyck’s TheArnolfini portrait , which he would have known in the National Gallery. Likewise, genteel interiors, universes of the private individual, were popular subjects during this period, particularly in the exhibitions of the New English Art Club. In this work, Lambert depicted mistresses and maids, and the daily domestic ritual of tea. He depicted people reading and reflecting in the comfort of familiar surroundings. He also showed the master looking out the window and the wider world beyond. And he presented sun coming through the windows and lighting up the interior. Thea Proctor wrote in The Home on 1 July 1930 that The convex mirror ‘has the exquisite finish of the Dutch Masters, and shows that a present-day artist could also paint small things in a large manner’.
George LAMBERT, A sergeant of the Light Horse [A Sergeant of Light Horse in Palestine] 1920
A sergeant of the Light Horse is a tribute to a type of Australian, generally a product of a rural background, who became part of the national mythology during the First World War: the Light Horseman. Lambert posed his subject in his flannel shirt, sleeves rolled up and forearms bare, seated in the open air before a ridge of scrubby hills and a blue sky. He is in a meditative position, with eyes glancing downwards. The Light Horseman holds his much-prized plumed hat to his chest – as if he has removed it in respect for his dead comrades, about whom his lowered eyes suggest he may be thinking. The portrait is painted in the high-key palette which Lambert adopted as a result of his appreciation of Botticelli’s paintings from fifteenth-century Florence and his desire to paint a picture which would look good under any light. Botticelli’s influence can also be found in the downward look, the elegant, slender neck, the long-fingered hands with clearly delineated nails and the sculptured features of the face. This work demonstrates Lambert’s observance of a balanced structure: the oval head is counterpoised against the circular form of the hat. The head is silhouetted against the brilliant blue, cloud-dotted sky and separated from and lifted above the V-shaped outline of the hills, which is mirrored in reverse in the shoulders, followed through with a repetitive echo in the (sergeant’s) stripes of the jacket and the angle of the elbow, and seen again in the pointed curl of the hair and the angular chin. Lambert gave this serviceman a sensuousness through his sharp-focus rendering of flesh and musculature, and in the way he portrayed the taut neck and wiry arms. As Hans Heysen observed, ‘the feeling way the eyes have been painted and the expression of that sensitiveness around the mouth are truly wonderful’ (Thiele, p.295). This image of a Light Horseman matches the official account of the Australian Light Horseman who served in Palestine. H.S. Gullett wrote: ‘So far as a distinctive type has been evolved it is … young men long of limb and feature, spare of flesh, easy and almost tired in bearing’. The long-limbed, lean and languid figure that Lambert portrayed fits easily with such a description. So too does this soldier’s rather sensitive glance for, as Gullett observed, the Light Horseman ‘for all his unconventional ways … was at least distinguished by shyness and reserve. The young countryman leads a simple and peaceful life. He bears himself modestly … A felt slouch hat, a shirt with sleeves rolled to the elbows, long trousers …’ (Gullett 1936, pp.34–6). The model for this Light Horseman is reputed to be Thomas Herbert Ivers (1881–1940), a sergeant with the 1st Signal Squadron who was employed colouring contour maps for the War Records Section in Palestine. He met Lambert during the latter’s visit to Damascus in 1919. Ivers was granted leave to assist Lambert with his large battle paintings in London from September 1919 to February 1920. This work is about an Australian type, his relationship to the countryside and his memories of his mates. Lambert created a new model for a military portrait; instead of the noble, the dashing and the heroic subjects of previous wars he presented a humble, but not humbled, man; he is shown in all simplicity without the pomp of his full-dress uniform, without the glamour and superior status of a horse, and he is the stronger for this. As Alexander Colquhoun wrote in the Melbourne Herald , on 11 May 1921, this was seen as ‘a truly distinctive figure, and constitutes the most original and descriptive presentment of a Digger which we have yet seen here’. More important is Lambert’s use, in this painting, of the image which perfectly matched certain powerful ideas current in the then-young Australian commonwealth. The image met a need for national self-definition. Australians who were formed by bush life, by working with animals and the elements in a blond land under a blue sky, would become the no-nonsense, unceremonious soldiers who excelled at war in the lands of the ancient Mediterranean, but knew its cost, were appalled by it, and would not romanticise it. They were tough, wiry and tender. It is also significant that the landscape setting in biblical Palestine has been made to resemble the familiar convention of a blue-and-gold Australian landscape. The work was purchased for the National Gallery of Victoria, on the advice of its director Bernard Hall, from Lambert’s return-to-Australia exhibition at the Fine Art Society’s Gallery, Melbourne, in 1921. It was reproduced on an Australian one-dollar stamp issued in 1974.
George LAMBERT, Portrait group (The mother) 1907
During the early 1900s, images of women and children were a favourite subject for traditional and more modern artists alike. In Portrait group (The mother), Lambert contrasted two women: one wearing the kind of billowing dress worn in feminist and artistic circles, and the other standing next to her with her hand placed cavalierly on her shoulder, wearing a fashionable black satin waisted coat and a high-necked dress. In this way he contrasted the supple, rounded form of one woman against the more statuesque figure of the other, and in so doing suggested the difference between a woman’s role as a mother and that as an independent woman. As with his other family groups he used his wife and children as models, together with their artist friend Thea Proctor. This is one of a number of images of women and children that Lambert painted, to which he gave objective titles such as Equestrian portrait of a boy (cat.26) and Holiday in Essex (cat.44) rather than the subjective ‘The artist’s family’ or ‘Amy, Maurice and Constant’. He intended his wife and children to signify the ‘ideal’ mother and children and not to represent themselves. He sometimes depicted his second son Constant dressed in a frock that was then used for baby boys, as in this work, and generally with his genitalia hidden, so that he could be viewed as any child and not specifically as this particular boy-child. Lambert’s depiction of the boy in the long coat with his feet firmly planted on the ground looking out of the picture with an expression of roguish defiance resembles Velázquez’s portrait Philip IV of Spain in brown and silver 1632 (National Gallery, London). The stance of this figure also recalls Hans Holbein’s portrait of Henry VIII or Reynolds’s mock-heroic Master Crewe as Henry VIII 1776 (private collection). Lambert appropriated the pose, which through its common usage had become part of the general vocabulary of art. Lambert admitted that ‘the pose and atmosphere are traditional enough; and has actually no more relationship with Spanish art than with anything modern’ (ML MSS A1811 p.70). What is more, the costume came about by accident. Maurice was originally going to be painted in a white shirt, but one day he was fooling around with his father’s coat and Lambert, delighted with this image, incorporated it into the painting. In this family group Lambert worked in the tradition of prominent society portrait painter Charles Furse. Like Furse, Lambert did not seek to paint a naturalistic outdoor image, particularly in his depiction of the landscape and the placement of the figures in it. Rather, he wanted to create a decorative effect, using the billowing forms of the clouds to enhance the rounded shapes of the figures, and deliberately placing dark shapes against light. In discussing this picture Lambert observed that ‘the dextrous brushwork, the following of the contours, the suave movement of drapery and clouds – are distinctly influenced by Furze’. (Lambert 1924, p.13) The painting received favourable comment from contemporary London critics. The Times suggested on 4 May 1907 that the painting was ‘full of promise for the future’, while P.G. Konody, who became a staunch supporter of Lambert’s work, noted in the supplement to the Observer on 5 May 1907 that it was ‘painted with such freshness and such musical sense of colour that it is as bracing as a sea-breeze after the studio-made articles that abound all round’. He went on to suggest that Lambert’s ‘chief aim seems to have been the realisation of a decorative effect by rhythmic arrangement of line and balance of masses’. This work is reported to have been Amy Lambert’s favourite portrait group.
George LAMBERT, The white glove 1921
This is a lively bravura portrait of a modern Melbourne woman of fashion, style and elegance. It has an arresting vitality. Her belongings, a luscious blue stole, elegant feathered hat and jewelled ring, are as much the subject of this work as is Miss Collins herself, and contribute to it a sense of opulence. Her flamboyant pose, with her head slightly tilted back and poised to one side, and her arms caught in mid-action, matches her vivacious personality. Her eyes appear to be laughing in accord with her smile and she seems to be deliberately posing or hamming it up for the artist. The subject, Miss Gladys Neville Collins, was the daughter of J.T. Collins, lawyer, Victorian State Parliamentary draughtsman, and trustee of the Public Library, Museums and National Gallery of Victoria. Lambert appears to have enjoyed painting her portrait and described her to Amy on 10 December 1921 as ‘a dear girl [who] sits for the fun of it and because her Dad thinks I am it’ (ML MSS 97/10, p.393). Lambert portrayed the individual features of Miss Collins but, with her collaboration, he arranged them to denote a characteristic type. Miss Collins’s tilted head, her half-open mouth, half-closed eyes, and almost-bare right arm suggest an individual sensuality, but they also indicate a form of codified (sexual) behaviour. Lambert's portrait presents a witty version of the pose of Bernini’s Ecstasy of St Teresa 1645–52 (Cornaro Chapel, Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome), an established expression of the ecstatic experience, and one which was subsequently taken up by photographers, film-makers and advertisers. What is more, Lambert presented Miss Collins in a variation of the pose used by Joshua Reynolds in his portrait Sarah Siddons as the Tragic Muse 1784, which in 1921 (the year Lambert painted this portrait) the Duke of Westminster had controversially sold to The Huntington Library and Art Collection in California. By associating Miss Collins with this classic image of a leading actress, he hinted that she was playing a role in this portrait. It is also possible that Lambert knew Sargent’s Portrait of Ena Wertheimer: a vele gonfie of 1905 (Tate, London), a lively portrait of Ena wearing as a joke a black feathered hat and billowing cloak, painted essentially in black and white. It is similar to Lambert’s painting in its sense of extravagant posture and light-heartedness. If nothing else, both paintings are a reflection of the spirit of the times. In this portrait Lambert used a limited range of colours to great effect: a dark Manet black and a Gainsborough blue, with the addition of purple in the jewel on a chain around her neck. Lambert paid close attention to the clothing, capturing an array of textures – the lustrous steel-blue silk of her stole, the fluffy white fur collar, the white leather gloves, the transparent black lace sleeve and the black velvet of the hat wreathed with white ostrich plumes. Lambert painted the portrait with broad brushstrokes, and spontaneously, as a kind of ‘performance in paint’. When exhibited, it stood out from the prevalent brown tonalist portraiture painted at this time by other Australian artists, such as John Longstaff and W.B. McInnes. (W.B. McInnes’s much more restrained Portrait of Miss Collins was awarded the Archibald Prize for 1924 at the Art Gallery of New South Wales). Lambert’s tour de force was purchased for 600 guineas by the Art Gallery of New South Wales when it was shown at the New South Wales Society of Artists exhibition in 1922; at that time the highest price paid by a public gallery for a portrait by an Australian artist.