Around 1909 Lambert painted a number of more deliberately original and unusual images that resist definite explanation. In The shop he used the traditional subject of the artist’s studio (the shop or workshop) to construct a highly stylised composition. His subjects were: a professional model dressed as King Edward VII holding his hat to his chest; an artist’s lay figure, a life-size doll with articulated joints, not dressed up but nude in its skin of cloth; a seated boy modelled by his son Maurice; Lambert himself in his shirt sleeves; and two meticulously painted still lifes in the foreground, empty vessels and fresh flowers.
About this time Lambert was painting a portrait of King Edward VII in a field-marshal’s uniform, working from a model who closely resembled the monarch (and also Lambert) and who presumably posed as the king in this painting.
Lambert blocked in the composition with a thick brush and used fluid paint to sketch
in the background. He then depicted the model for the king and himself in greater detail. He used an essentially monotone palette with splashes of red, blue, yellow and white.
Lambert showed the world as a kind of procession on a shallow stage. His figures are merely actors: they do not relate to or engage with each other.
In presenting this everyday scene in a most unusual fashion he celebrated the artificiality of art. The artist turns his back on his sitters and looks back at himself as much as out at the viewer. He can do so because he does not depict a real king, on whom he would have been unlikely to turn his back, or an actual and seductive nude who might have attracted his attention.