the verso of the story
Monday 30 April 2007 by Janda Gooding. 1 comment
George Lambert: Gallipoli and Palestine Landscapes, Exhibition, Conservation
With all the work the conservation team - David, Ilaria, Sharon, Gajendra and Sophie - have done on the Lamberts for the exhibition, lots of new things have emerged - and the backs of the images are a goldmine for information. We've uncovered other paintings, unfinished sketches and interesting old labels. All of this adds to our understanding of George Lambert and how he worked.
The 'Double trouble' post revealed the story of uncovering the back of one painting to find another - The top of the Taurus Ranges. On the back of The Nek, Walker's Ridge, site of the charge of the light horse is a study of a horse and pack mule in Rest Gully at Gallipoli (now framed so that is visible). During his stay at Gallipoli in 1919, Lambert was assisted by soldiers assigned to help him. On this occasion he was accompanied by someone he termed a 'Dinkum' Aussie' who carried the painting gear, and odd bits of salvage on a pack-mule. Lambert rode what he described as "a very ugly plug, a small draught horse which, though unspeakably plain, is useful and has a fondness for the mule. The mule breaks away every fifteen minutes or so when we camp for painting and the Dinkum shows the stuff he is made of by sliding down the side of the precipice and catching her, tethering her by some special stunt ... then he climbs laboriously back to me and by the time he reaches my summit she is off again; quite a good circus for a grey day ... one afternoon I varied the programme by doing a sketch of the little gully, called Rest Gully, where the 5th Field Ambulance, from Sydney, and commanded by Dr. Roth, was camped during the occupation. With the horse and mule in the foreground it made a decent sketch". (1)
On the verso of Jebel Saba, near Nalin is Walad Camp follower, an oil sketch of an Arab boy. It's a fairly simple study with lots of the background quickly dashed in. There is one brief reference to this work in a list of paintings consigned by Lambert from Palestine to London in May 1918 where he says that on the back of Jebel Saba, near Nalin "there is a study of a Walad Camp Follower." 'Walad' is Arabic for 'boy' and a short entry in the publication Australia in Palestine noted: "You occasionally find Arab boys travelling with the Light Horse, keen little beggars who act as cooks' offsiders and batmen's batmen, and officers smile and sympathetically shut their eyes to it." (2) We don't know as yet where Lambert painted this portrait and can't assume that just because it's on the back of the Nalin work that it was painted around there. All the backs of the Lambert oil on cardboard and wood panel sketches were sealed with varnish or shellac to prevent the wood from warping or splitting. This is what causes the dark and light bands across the image of the boy (above).
1. Thirty Years of an Artist's Life, by Amy Lambert, Sydney 1938, pp. 104-05.
2. Australia in Palestine, Sydney 1919, p.118.