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George Lambert, c.1929

May Moore

gelatin silver photograph (image/sheet: 20.0 cm x 14.2 cm)

George Lambert (1873-1930), artist, was a jackeroo before moving to Sydney to work as an illustrator and attend art school. After winning the first NSW Society of Artists’ Travelling Scholarship in 1900 he studied and worked in Paris and London for many years, becoming an Associate of the Royal Academy. The only Official War Artist of World War I to be appointed to the rank of Honorary Captain, he produced immense, violent paintings of the landing at Gallipoli and the charge of the Light Horse at Beersheba. Returning to Sydney in 1921, he became a major active influence on contemporary art, relentlessly pursued by artists who wanted him to exhibit with them, dealers who wanted his works and clients who wanted portraits and commissioned pieces for their houses. Further exhausted by recurring symptoms of malaria, he spent what was left of his energy working on sculptures, including the Henry Lawson Memorial that stands in the Domain, the Geelong War Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier for St Mary’s Cathedral. He died of heart failure while attending to his horse at Cobbity, south of Sydney. Some of Lambert’s works, including Across the Black Soil Plains (1899) A Sergeant of the Light Horse (1920) and The Squatter’s Daughter (1923-4) number amongst the key twentieth-century representations of aspects of Australian experience; his 1924 Self-portrait with gladioli, painted in Sydney to send to the Royal Academy in London, is a destination work for the National Portrait Gallery.

Between 1927 and 1930, Arthur Murch assisted George Lambert on major sculptural works. Lambert was debilitated, and he greatly valued Murch’s strength, calling him the ‘pocket Hercules’. They worked together on the figure for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in St Mary’s Cathedral, and Murch completed the Henry Lawson Memorial after Lambert died in 1930. Arthur Murch’s daughter, Michelle, supposes that this photograph of Lambert may have been in his studio when he died, and that Arthur Murch, who continued to work in the studio, may have taken it as a souvenir of his friend. It hung in the stairwell of the Murch family home for many years.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2015

Accession number: 2015.70

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

May Moore (age 48 in 1929)

George Lambert (age 56 in 1929)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

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