George Lambert had earned a reputation as a portrait painter in London in the prewar years. Many of his subjects were notable women, and in depicting them Lambert particularly enjoyed the pageantry of costume and colour, often inserting his sitters into compositions inspired by baroque or 19th-century masterpieces.
By comparison, his portrait of Helen Lawson - a volunteer British Red Cross Society nurse who served in London during the war - is relatively subdued. Her inward-clasped hands were an affectation Lambert had begun to explore with his sitters, but Lawson's self-conscious smile almost makes a mockery of this mannerism. Lambert's portrayal of the young nurse in her uniform is a recognition of the important home-front roles played by women during the war.
The smiling sister
oil on canvas
76.0 x 62.0 cm stretcher; 91.7 x 77.0 x 5.5 cm frame
Signature & date
Signed and dated l.l. corner, brown oil "G.W. LAMBERT/ 1915.".
Shown in 4 exhibitions
Society of Artists Annual Exhibition (1921), Education Department Gallery [Loftus Street], Sydney, 10 Sep 1921–01 Oct 1921
George Lambert Memorial Exhibition (1930), Anthony Horderns' Fine Art Gallery, 25 Sep 1930–15 Oct 1930
150 years of Australian art (1938), National Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 27 Jan 1938–25 Apr 1938
Mad through the darkness: Australian artists and the Great War, 25 Apr 2015–11 Oct 2015
Referenced in 8 publications
Julian Ashton, The Art of George W Lambert, Sydney, 1924, (illus.). plate no. 4
Lionel Lindsay, 150 years of Australian art, Sydney, 1938. cat.no. 738 [Gallery No. 7]
Lionel Lindsay, 150 years of Australian art, Sydney, 1938.
Charles Marriott, Modern Art 1919 Series, London, 1919, (colour illus.). plate no. XLV
Charles Marriott, Masterpieces of Modern Art, London, (colour illus.).
Editor Unknown (Editor), Colour magazine, Westminster, Nov 1917, front cover (colour illus.). titled 'Miss Helen Lawson'
Editor Unknown (Editor), The Sydney Morning Herald, 'George Lambert. Purchases of His Works', Sydney, 23 Sep 1930, 4.
Editor Unknown (Editor), The Sydney morning herald, 'Society of Artists: the Spring exhibition', pg. 6, Sydney, 09 Sep 1921, 6.