Hugh Ramsay (1877–1906) was an Australian painter of portraits and genre subjects. Lambert met Ramsay in 1900 when they were fellow passengers on board the Persic travelling to England. They studied together in Paris, where Lambert admired Ramsay's work, and considered him to be the only Australian artist studying in Paris who was ‘using paint and not picking at the thing’. Ramsay returned to Australia in August 1902 because he was suffering from tuberculosis, a disease which killed him four years later, when he was twenty-eight.
Lambert drew this portrait of his artist friend in London, after Ramsay arrived from Scotland on 5 January and before Ramsay moved to Paris on 22 January 1901. Lambert generally reserved brush and ink for his illustrative work and usually drew portraits of family and friends in pencil, but here he used brush and ink to create an evocative portrait of his friend.
Amy Lambert wrote of this drawing: ‘a striking portrait of [Ramsay], a rapid wash-drawing made when he arrived one evening at our studio, train-sick and weary with social calls, which explained his unusual dress of morning coat and silk hat. He left, somewhat revived by tea and sympathy, with impressive injunctions to us to make all haste to Paris’ (Lambert 1938, p.28).
As with many of Lambert’s illustrations, this drawing was still in his possession when he died.