Using broad brushstrokes, Lambert painted this informal self-portrait in a lighter, more muted palette than his Self-portrait of c.1906 (cat.29). He applied the paint freely to depict the clothing, while covering the canvas thinly in the background. Nonetheless, compared with some of Lambert’s other self-portraits it is understated and unrhetorical. He achieved a realistic representation with an impressive economy of brushstrokes and colour.
Lambert may have based the self-portrait on Velázquez’s penetrating portrait of the sculptor Juan Martínez Montañés c.1636 (Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid), which he would have known from a reproduction in R.A.M. Stevenson’s book, Velasquez . Stevenson suggested that:
one may note the bold certainty with which Velasquez establishes the form of the eye socket, the planes of the nose and cheeks in this broad and stately portrait. No lines are wanted to bring out the shapes; the painter’s science of values is all-sufficient (Stevenson, p.54).
Lambert likewise emphasised the planes of his face in this self-portrait. He presented himself looking out at the viewer with a penetrating gaze to create a lively image.