Old man with pipe is a study for the seated figure of the swagman in Lambert’s Henry Lawson memorial (cat.121). Although Lambert believed in ‘drawing for its own sake’ he did make a number of drawings which were sketches for paintings and sculpture, in which he worked out his ideas for major compositions such as this one. This drawing may have been one of the pencil studies which Lambert submitted with his proposal for the commission of the sculpture in December 1926.
Lambert drew this figure in rough outline, building up detail in certain areas and leaving others incomplete. His concern was with capturing the posture and kinaesthesia of the man, carefully capturing the muscles in the arms and the way in which they rest on the legs. Although this is a study, it is also a fully signed presentation drawing.
Lambert’s musing figure is in a pose resembling that of Michelangelo’s prophet Jeremiah 1511 (Sistine Chapel, Rome), the tortured lamenter of the Old Testament who asked ‘O why was I born,’ and suggested that ‘Life is a bitter, bitter vale’.