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 | The road to Jericho

Russia 1873 – Australia 1930
Australia 1887-1900; England 1900-01; France 1901-02; England 1902-21; Australia from 1921
The road to Jericho c.1918
oil on canvas
strainer 30.7 (h) x 40.7 (w) cm
frame 44.0 (h) x 54.2 (w) x 5.6 (d) cm
signed 'G.W.L.' lower centre
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, purchased in 1941
VIEW: Article |

Lambert depicted the desert landscape, showing the area through which the road to Jericho passed nearby to the headquarters of the Desert Mounted Corps. He created a harmonious balance of creams and fawns, blues and purples. He showed a cerulean sky over the blue waters of the Dead Sea in the middle distance and the mauve mountains in the distance. The road is visible on the upper left, where a small black horse with a rider is climbing a gentle slope, giving a scale to the image.

William Moore reported that Lambert said that ‘of all the places I visited, the region around Jericho was the most attractive from the artistic point of view … an inspiring background of hills … beyond the Jordan the Mountains of Moab, standing out in jagged serrated masses of colour in strong light and shade’ (Moore, vol. 2, pp.62–3). Lambert moved about the newly captured territory, down the winding road from Jerusalem to Jericho, and painted this view capturing the warmth and peace of the Jordan Valley.

Here, Lambert emphasised the pattern of the hills rising up from the sandy riverbed, their undulating, sensual curves, as he described them to Amy on 16 March 1918, ‘here rhythmical, there jagged and eccentrically opposed’ (ML MSS 97/4, item 6). He viewed the landscape with a focus on its underlying form and an intention to simplify its masses. It was a landscape immensely suited to Lambert’s interest in imposing a sense of design onto the scene and emphasising its structure.

The road to Jericho was the one Jesus said the good Samaritan walked when he stopped to nurse a victim of assault, without considering his religion or ethnicity. In titling this work Lambert would have been conscious of this biblical reference and its resonance during wartime.

This painting presents the same view as a smaller oil sketch of this subject in the Australian War Memorial’s collection, painted by Lambert in front of the motif in Palestine. But Lambert’s use of canvas here – rather than the cardboard he used for the plein-air sketch – suggests it was a second version, painted in London after his return from Palestine, and not directly before the scene.

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