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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

A very great and stimulating thrill

‘She wanted to be adored, but she was so wonderful that … the Australian male, being what he is, would have been frightened to come close to her.’

1 Self portrait with gladioli, 1922. 2 Portrait group (The mother), 1907. Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Purchased with the assistance of SH Ervin 1965 [1:1046] Photograph: QAGOMA. 3 Portrait of Thea Proctor, 1905. Art Gallery of New South Wales [309.2005] Gift of Thea Waddell 2005 Photo: AGNSW. All George Lambert.

Among Thea Proctor’s art school contemporaries in 1890s Sydney was George Lambert – tall, manly and gifted. Proctor, talented and beautiful herself, modelled for him sometimes. In 1900, Lambert left for London with his wife, Amy. Three years later, Proctor broke off her own engagement and went to London too, posing again for Lambert soon afterwards. A portrait of her was the first work of Lambert’s to be accepted for the Royal Academy; others from the period show her and Amy together. Some historians have interpreted works like Portrait group (The mother) as reflections on the contrasting women in Lambert’s life: soft, motherly, domesticated Amy; and aloof, worldly, alluring Thea. Others have wondered whether Lambert’s depictions of Proctor reveal more than just a stimulating professional relationship. Lambert died in 1930. Proctor never married, staying friends with Amy for 60 years, while Lambert’s sensuous charcoal drawing of her remained a treasured possession until her death in 1966.

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

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