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George W Lambert Self-portrait

oil on canvas

128.2 x 102.8 cm (sight)

Image courtesy National Portrait Gallery, Canberra. Photo: Mark Mohell

This painting by George W Lambert, also known as Self-portrait with gladioli, is now in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra.

At 47 years old, Lambert had achieved significant recognition and success in Britain and Australia when he painted the portrait. He had studied and worked in Paris and London and was an associate of the Royal Academy in London, the only Australian painter to receive such an honour.

In this work, Lambert has deliberately chosen to represent himself as self-assured and peacockish, a contrivance that projects and reflects how he believed others viewed him. In reality, Lambert had just moved to Sydney and was exhausted by a relentless workload of commissions, lecturing and social commitments. Lambert commented in 1924: ‘Australia will of course expect great things and excitement when my self-portrait is exhibited in the RA … I just say it was my big effort and it cost me dearly in money and swat.’

Controversially, both Lambert and John Longstaff removed their works within a fortnight of the opening of the 1922 exhibition. Both artists had been deemed ineligible for the award due to their residency. Despite having lived in Australia for over a year, London was still their postal address.