Australian painter Arthur Streeton (1867–1943) achieved considerable success in Australia in the 1890s painting lyric views of the area around the Sydney Harbour en plein air and heroic landscapes of the Blue Mountains and the Hawkesbury River. Together with Tom Roberts and Charles Conder (see cat.25), he was a major instigator of the 1889 ‘9 by 5 impressions’ exhibition in Melbourne. In 1897 he moved to London, where he painted English landscapes, while retaining Australia as a principal market.
Lambert depicted Streeton, aged thirty-nine, in profile and looking to the left: a pose similar to that in which fellow Australian artist Tom Roberts had painted Streeton aged twenty-four in 1891. In this drawing Lambert emphasised the profile of Streeton’s brow, nose and beard with a sharp outline. He drew this portrait before Streeton left London for a twelve-month visit to Australia on 13 October 1906.
It is not known when Lambert first met Streeton; it could have been in Sydney in the 1890s. They certainly knew each other by 1901, because in January 1901, before they left for Paris, the Lamberts visited Streeton for lunch, when Streeton wrote that Lambert ‘seems fresh & lively enough’ (Galbally and Gray, p.84). Streeton became a member of the Chelsea Arts Club in January 1903, and Lambert joined the club on 6 March 1905; they would have regularly met up with each other there. Furthermore, that year, at the suggestion of Roberts, Australian artists held a dinner at the Au Petit Riche restaurant in Soho, at which both Lambert and Streeton were present. Streeton became one of Lambert’s closest friends among the Australian expatriate artists in London, with Lambert later writing that ‘Streeton was a frequent and honoured visitor to the studio’ (ML MSS A1811, p.73). Around 1907 Streeton modelled for Lambert for his painting The sonnet (cat.34), and in 1917 Lambert painted a portrait of Streeton in military uniform (Australian War Memorial, Canberra).