The pink and red camellias – winter flowers – look freshly picked and perfectly formed, and are arranged with an apparent naturalness in their blue-and-white ceramic bowl. This seems to be a conventional and fastidiously crafted flower piece, and yet the viewpoint, looking down on the tilted table, has a modern aspect. Similarly, in a more contemporary fashion we view the bowl in profile but are also allowed to look down into it.
Lambert approached still-life painting as a way to experiment with composition and a semi-abstract arrangement of forms. He painted with assurance, rendering the flowers with crisp and realistic detail, while painting the tablecloth and patterned cloth background with more expressive strokes built up of ‘little planes’. Here, he used brighter colours and a bolder arrangement than he had in his flower pieces painted in 1916, such as A garden bunch (cat.62).
The camellia is a Japanese flower, where it is a symbol of long life, good luck and good relationships. The red camellia is the symbol of humble beauty.
This painting was purchased privately, by Percy Reed, when exhibited in London at the New English Art Club’s summer exhibition of 1917 and has remained in private ownership.