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The old dress Theme: Beginnings

Artist: George W. LAMBERT
Birth/Death: 1873–1930

Title: The old dress

Credit Line: National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.

George Lambert was interested in the paradox of the ‘old dress’ and the “new woman”. In this painting of 1906 he illustrates a change in the conventions of femininity. The Edwardian woman, possibly the artist Thea Proctor, with her gibson girl hairstyle and challenging gaze dresses up in a tattered wedding dress which is heavily evocative of Victorian fragility and restraint. In 1906 George Lambert was a struggling expatriate artist living in London. He had to work hard to gain commissions for portraits and may well have painted The old dress to demonstrate his extraordinary talent. Lambert painted fast and vigorously; the dress is a virtuoso performance capturing froth and translucency in lace and silk. We seem to be looking through a double-sided mirror as we observe a young woman “dressing up” and considering her reflection.

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