George W Lambert retrospective: heroes and icons

29 June – 16 September 2007
National Gallery of Australia

“One of the great Edwardian virtuosi – the Australian Sargent”, Barry Humphries

Media release
27 June 2007

George Lambert 'Miss Helen Beauclerk' 1914 oil on canvas 76.5 x 61.0 cm Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, purchased in 1921

George Lambert 'Miss Helen Beauclerk' 1914 oil on canvas 76.5 x 61.0 cm Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, purchased in 1921

The first major exhibition for over seventy years of one of Australia's most significant artists, George W Lambert (1873-1930), opens at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, on Friday 29 June 2007. 

The exhibition includes more than one hundred works and showcases every aspect of George Lambert's multi-faceted career. From Australian bush subjects to Edwardian portraits and figure groups, from sparkling oil sketches to major battle paintings and large sculpture, the exhibition shows the full breadth of Lambert’s approaches to image making. His subjects includeAustralian icons Henry Lawson, Breaker Morant and Banjo Patterson, as well as fellow artists Charles Conder, Thea Proctor, Hugh Ramsay and Arthur Streeton.

Lambert gained an international reputation, and is the only Australian painter to be elected an Associate by the Royal Academy of Arts, London – and one of only a few Australian artists to have their portrait included in the National Portrait Gallery, London. Along with Dame Nellie Melba, George W Lambert was a celebrity of his time. He was also well respected by his peers in the art world, ‘Lambert from Sydney is our best Australian artist here,’ said Arthur Streeton, in London, 1909.

Lambert studied at Julian Ashton’s art school and, like many other aspiring artists at the time, he began to make illustrations for the Bulletin, which helped support him in his studies. He won several prizes, including the 1899 Wynne Prize for Across the black soil plains and the 1927 Archibald Prize for his portrait of Mrs Annie Murdoch.

Lambert is known for his landscapes — images of life in the Australian bush, drawn from his own experience on the land, such as Across the black soil plains 1899. Commissioned as an Australian official war artist during the First World War, Lambert’s memorable Gallipoli painting Anzac, the landing 1915 1920–22 and A Sergeant of Light Horse in Palestine 1920, became well known through their reproduction on Australian postage stamps. The exhibition will also include works by Lambert that are not as well known, but are well worth discovering. A flamboyant artist with an eye for the bizarre, Lambert painted ordinary scenes in an extraordinary way.

Lambert painted many self-portraits throughout his life. He reflected his complex personality through these self-portraits, presenting himself as an actor playing out a role. This retrospective will include six important versions, including Lambert’s Self-portrait with gladioli 1922.

George W Lambert is not a name immediately associated with sculpture; however, his iconic Henry Lawson Memorial 1927–31, a visual metaphor of Australian mateship, is a central focus of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney. In the last years of his life much of Lambert’s energy was consumed creating large-scale sculptures.

Lambert was a versatile artist and the works on display in this retrospective reflect this quality, spanning across a range of media including oil and watercolour painting, drawing and sculpture.

The exhibition is supported by a range of public programs, including a symposium on the life, work and times of George W Lambert, to be held at the Australian War Memorial on 29 June 2007. The symposium is a collaboration between the National Gallery of Australia and the War Memorial.

George W Lambert retrospective: heroes and icons is curated by Dr Anne Gray, Head of Australian Art, National Gallery of Australia. It is the result of generous inter-gallery cooperation and will selectively draw together important works by Lambert that are scattered throughout major art museums and collections in Australia, as well as some private collections in Britain. Due to the scale of some of these works, the exhibition will only be shown in Canberra.

The National Gallery is delighted that ActewAGL, a loyal supporter of the Gallery and its programs, is the major sponsor of this important retrospective.

On view
Friday 29 June – Sunday 16 September 2007
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Adult $10.00
Member/concession $7.00

Hard cover $79.00
Soft cover special exhibition price $49.00

enquiries and bookings +61 2 6243 4375

Major Partner

Media information and images
Todd Hayward +61 2 6240 6700
Elizabeth Malone +61 2 6240 6603