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 | Anzacs bathing

Russia 1873 – Australia 1930
Australia 1887-1900; England 1900-01; France 1901-02; England 1902-21; Australia from 1921
Anzacs bathing 1916
oil on canvas
26.3 (h) x 36.0 (w) cm
signed and dated 'G.W.LAMBERT 1916?' lower left
Mildura Arts Centre, bequest of R. D. Elliot in 1955
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Anzacs bathing is a heroic image of the Anzacs at an early stage in the development of the legend of the brave men of the Australian and New Zealand forces who fought at Gallipoli.

The nakedness of the men might suggest they are more than men and that they are like Greek gods, or at least the heroes of Greek legends. The Anzac book , a souvenir publication produced in London in 1916, containing stories, poems and illustrations by soldiers, had included a poem by Lambert's friend, Arthur Adams, ‘The Trojan War, 1915’, where the Anzacs were compared with the heroes of Homer.

We care not what old Homer tells Of Trojan war and Helen’s fame. Upon the ancient Dardanelles New peoples write – in blood – their name.

No legend lured these men to roam; They journeyed forth to save from harm Some Mother-Helen sad at home, Some obscure Helen on a farm.

And when one falls upon the hill – Then by dark Styx’s gloomy strand, In honour to plain Private Bill Great Agamemnon lifts his hand!

This painting was reproduced in 1924 in The art of George W. Lambert with the title Anzacs bathing, and as Lambert participated in compiling this book, he would have authorised this title. The background might come from a photograph of a beached ship. The scene is intended to signify Anzac Cove. As the official war historian C.E.W. Bean recorded that on 30 May 1915, just five days after the landing, some of the men bathed there. Lambert did not go to Palestine until 1918 and Gallipoli until 1919, and as this work is dated 1916, he must have painted it in London from imagination. Around the time, one year after the landing, 25 April 1916 was officially named Anzac Day and a commemorative march took place through London.

Michelangelo and his sixteenth-century mannerist followers were much quoted in Edwardian art, and his Battle of Cascina 1505 mural with soldiers bathing has often inspired war art compositions. Lambert’s central figure, however, takes its suspended form from the Dying slave 1513–16 sculpture in the Louvre.

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