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Australian art

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The smiling sister (Miss Helen Lawson)



George W Lambert

Russia, Australia

1873 - 1930


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.


Other Title

The smiling sister



Media category


Materials used

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.".


Purchased 1930


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

George W Lambert

Artist profile

Works in the collection


Shown in 4 exhibitions

Exhibition history

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. 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.