George Lambert: Gallipoli and Palestine Landscapes, Janda's Blog about Gallipoli, Landscape, Landscapes of war
In late April the days on the Gallipoli peninsula are warm and the evenings cool. Across the peninsula the landscape is a mix of rich and interesting bushy scrub as well as farming land with olive groves, wheat fields and almonds growing wild along the roads. In many places Aleppo pine trees make dense shaded groves and the arbutus shrub provides a rich green contrast to the otherwise softer grey greens of the peninsula.
The arbutus shrubs dominate the ANZAC area giving the slopes a bronze-ish tint in the late afternoon light. This year, the warmth of an early spring has brought a flush of wild flowers out across the slopes and plateaus of Gallipoli. In the higher areas along Plugge’s Plateau and Lone Pine the soft grey green brush has a carpet of white Gallipoli roses (Cistus salvifolius) underneath, occasionally interspersed with a pinky mauve variety.Euphorbias, brilliant yellow or dull red are found in the drier areas and along the roadsides and wheat fields red poppies float in the light breeze. Around the cemeteries, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission has planted species that will flower in April; purple and white iris are common and an occasional late anemone can still be found in the lawns.
When Lambert visited Gallipoli in February 1919, it was late winter and he had to paint in icy winds and rainstorms. Despite the conditions, several of the early spring flowers were out. Understanding the landscape, its form, structure and colour was an important aspect of his work and he made detailed studies of the local plants as preparation for the later canvasses ANZAC, the landing 1915 and The charge of the 3rd Light Horse Brigade at the Nek, 7 August 1915.
Lambert's intention was to make a series of watercolours of the local flora as a record of the natural history of the area but in the end he made only one watercolour of an individual species - an arbutus plant. Lambert described the landscape as mostly being made up of a local scrub about 2ft high with “rather a wax like leaf with a sort of blossom something like a laurel but with red stalks or sticks.”
His other well known work is Gallipoli wildflowers. Lambert made this painting of the flowers of the ANZAC Cove area in late February 1919. He gathered a bunch of wild flowers on 27 February in case further rain prevented him from painting up at the Nek. His bunch consisted mainly of euphorbias and anemones with sprays of grasses and soft grey succulents. With two days of rain he finished the work on 1 March and wrote: “The flower piece is finished … The flowers are in a biscuit tin sitting on top of a bed for a tent pole. The work is up to standard." All of these species are still thriving on the peninsula but overall the landscape is much changed from when Lambert saw it. Nature has repaired much of the damage caused in 1915; the lines of trenches are softened and parts of the heights are eroding and crumbling. Importantly, the flora of the area has changed significantly since 1919. Introduced trees have been planted as part of an afforestation program and a massive fire in 1994 has caused substantial regeneration of particular species over others.
The area is now managed as part of the Gallipoli Peninsula Peace Park and covers 33,000 hectares (330 square kilometres). The park is included on the United Nations list of National Parks and Protected Areas.