DETAIL : George LAMBERT  Russia 1873 � Australia 1930  'Chesham Street' [Chesney Street; The Doctor; Harley Street] 1910  oil on canvas National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased in 1993 DETAIL : George LAMBERT  Russia 1873 � Australia 1930  'The convex mirror' c.1916  oil with pencil on wood panel private collection
George LAMBERT | Pan is dead (Still life)

Russia 1873 – Australia 1930
Australia 1887-1900; England 1900-01; France 1901-02; England 1902-21; Australia from 1921
Pan is dead (Still life)
[Pan is dead]
oil on canvas
76.5 (h) x 63.5 (w) cm
signed and dated 'G.W.L.1911' lower right
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, purchased in 1952
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Artistic tableaux were popular during the Edwardian era, and Lambert took part in those organised with fellow British and Australian artists. In The awakening of Pan , devised in 1909 by the wife of the British artist Philip Connard, he played the role of a sculpted figure of Pan who was brought to life by Flora’s kiss. For this he modelled a clay head of Pan to his own likeness, adding the luxuriant curls and embryo horns. From this he made a mask for the play. This still life portrays the plaster cast of the head of Pan.

In this still life Lambert constructed a conceit in which he played upon the difference between how things appear on the surface of the canvas and how they are in reality. He abrogated the difference between the solid bust of Pan and the bunch of fragile white roses in the glass vase beside it by making the sculpted curls in Pan’s hair resemble roses and by using sharply defined edges to ‘sculpt’ the flowers.

Lambert was also interested in the technical aspects of the work, in painting various tones of white against white. He deliberately emphasised these white forms by placing them against a dark background.

Pan, the god of woods and fields, of flocks and shepherds, came to be considered a personification of Nature, known for his lustful nature and demonic appearance. White roses, on the other hand, were traditionally a symbol of truth, innocence and spirituality. Gloves were a status symbol of good manners in the Edwardian era. Lambert first exhibited this painting in London in 1911 under the telling title of Pan is dead – suggesting both that Pan has lost his liveliness by being cast into a still sculpture, as well as the possible defeat of Pan by both the innocence of the flowers and the rigid social mores of the Edwardian middle class.

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