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 | Self-portrait (unfinished)

Russia 1873 – Australia 1930
Australia 1887-1900; England 1900-01; France 1901-02; England 1902-21; Australia from 1921
Self-portrait (unfinished)
oil on canvas
91.5 (h) x 75.0 (w) cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, purchased in 1930
VIEW: Article |

Lambert’s self-portraits are in part a self-examination of his nature, a kind of visual diary. This unfinished self-portrait enables us to see Lambert at work. He drew the figure in charcoal on top of a ground, then painted in the background, blocked in shadows and highlights with grey washes; and after this started painting the detail of the face, the white shirt and the hat. The unfinished right hand appears to be holding a paint brush. He started at the top of the portrait and then worked down.

This method resembled that reported in the Daily Telegraph on 22 September 1923, describing Lambert’s demonstration to Sydney art students. Lambert worked on the demonstration portrait from 9.30 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. with only a break for lunch. He began with a charcoal sketch, drawing in the arms, then the shoulders, the wrists, the hands, the fingers, with the head and its features last of all. He then worked on the background and the main tones with a palette knife, scraping off any undue thickness of pigment. Once he had laid in the tone he seldom altered it, but modified it by brushing in accents and building up the form with a mosaic of small planes.

As the Sydney Morning Herald reviewer observed on 3 September 1930, this unfinished self-portrait ‘has all the Lambert qualities of lifelike character and sound draughtsmanship’, and was ‘complete and arresting in its presentment of vivid life’.

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