George Lambert: Gallipoli and Palestine Landscapes, Exhibition
We are grateful to David Cox, a grand nephew of George Lambert's who has contributed the following post. David's grandmother was Sarah ("Sadie") Anne Cox, nee Lambert, George's elder sister.
Although often thought of as a quintessentially Australian artist, in his pre-teen years George Lambert had experienced only the cultures and languages of Russia, Germany and Britain. George Lambert was the youngest child and only boy in a family of four children. His American father (George Washington Lambert) died before George was born in 1873 in St Petersburg, Russia. George's English grandfather Thomas Firth, who was at the time chief of the Alexandrovsky Railway Workshops in St Petersburg, assumed the role of breadwinner and helped his widowed daughter Annie care for the young Lambert family. In 1876 they moved from Russia to Esslingen, Germany, where Thomas Firth superintended the construction of locomotives and carriages for the Russian railways.George's sister "Sadie" talked about their childhood to her daughter Ida Cox who made notes in the 1940s:
"The Germans in those days were the greatest toy makers in the World, and beautiful toys the little Lamberts had in Esslingen.
Mrs. Lambert was a wonderful Mother and companion to her children. She sewed beautiful dolls' clothes for the girls' dolls by hand, the neatness and minuteness of the stitching being marvellous to see. She told them stories, just as she did in later years to her grandchildren - most wonderful stories, which it was a delight to hear. She taught them to read and write in English as well as German, though at that time they spoke German naturally, and English was a foreign language to them. She taught them Music and other lessons too.
The family travelled to Munich and to Cologne; at Munich they visited the Art Gallery. George was then a small boy of four or five, and little did his mother dream that one day a picture painted by him would hang in similar galleries all over the world !"Hence young George spent much of his formative childhood in Germany, living there for the next five years. Then in 1881 the family moved to Yeovil, Somerset, England, where grandfather Thomas Firth's second wife had relatives. Sadie recalled:
"When first the young Lamberts went to school in England they were laughed at for their foreign accent and for the German words they occasionally substituted for English, but they soon exhibited much brilliance. George won the [Science and Art Department] (South Kensington) Prize for drawing at the age of [thirteen], and it was not long before Sadie was top of her class.
The accompanying photos of George and Sadie were taken at William Mayer's studio in Esslingen in about 1878, when George was five and Sadie eight years old.