The Gallipoli Mission
George Lambert: Gallipoli and Palestine Landscapes, Gallipoli Mission
In January 1919 a small group led by Charles Bean left London to travel to Gallipoli. The Australian Historical Mission was comprised of war records section staff, photographers and officers who had served at Gallipoli in 1915. The primary tasks of the mission were to report on the state of the war graves at Gallipoli and for Bean to try and resolve many of the riddles of the 1915 campaign. George Lambert was asked by Bean to go with the mission and to make oil and pencil studies that could later help him create two large works commissioned by the Australian Government for the future Australian War Memorial. Bean was particularly anxious that Lambert be the appointed artist as he felt that Lambert was the best of the Australian artists available. Bean also asked Hubert Wilkins a well known photographer to accompany the Mission and record the landscape through photography.
When the mission arrived at Gallipoli, a Turkish Officer Major Zeki Bey who had fought at Gallipoli joined the group. Zeki Bey walked the ground with Bean exchanging information and giving him a Turkish perspective of the 1915 campaign.
Additionally, the Graves Registration Unit was working in the area locating and identifying the remains of allied soldiers, reburying them and charting the cemeteries. The atmosphere in which Lambert painted was greatly influenced by the work going on around him as bones and bodies were constantly being unearthed, catalogued and then re-interred.The work he produced on Gallipoli is more sombre and muted in colour. He described the landscape of Gallipoli as disturbing and 'melancholy' and as he was making ready to depart he wrote to his wife "I cannot tell you how pleased I am at getting clear of this graveyard beautiful as it is nor can I explain how satisfied I am to have done what work I have done."