George Washington Lambert, “The Half-Back (Maurice Lambert)”, 1920, Oil on Canvas, 76.2 x 61 cm, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
Although “The Half-Back (Maurice Lambert)” is a portrait of an individual, Australian painter George Lambert intended it to be seen as a general type of portrait, and thus gave it a generalized name. He originally exhibited it as “Young Man in a White Sweater” in 1920 at London and, in the following year, at the Pittsburgh International. He later gave this portrait of his son Maurice, then an eighteen-year old sculpture student, a more athletic title, “The Half-Back”.
Lambert presented his son with a sensuous and powerful presence, typical of a matinee idol. This resulted from Lambert’s depiction of the sultry eyes, the dark brushed-back hair, the pouting expression of the mouth, and the subject’s white sweater, with the raised collar’s emphasis on the nape of the neck. Silhouetted against a plain blue background, the subject’s head and torso, composed of thin layers of paint to create a flat, matte surface, are the focus of the painting.
Born in Paris in 1901, Maurice Lambert was the eldest of two children of George Lambert and Amelia Absell; the other child was a daughter Constant, born in 1905, who became a composer and conductor. Maurice Lambert studied sculpture under Derwent Wood at London’s Royal Academy and also attended Chelsea Polytechnic. He is known mostly for his public sculptures.
Considered one of the new group of British sculptors, Maurice Lambert’s work in the late 1920s and 1930s was radical in his experimental use of materials. The wide range of his materials was evident in his 1929 “New Sculpture” exhibition, where he showed work made from African hardwood, alabaster, Portland stone, marble and metal. At the time his father painted this portrait, Maurice Lambert was still studying sculpture at the Royal College and was, also. working with his father at his studio as a model and painting assistant.
Originally “The Half-Back” was in the collection of Australian painter Hans Heysen, known for his watercolors of monumental Australian gum trees, and images of men and animals in the Australian bush. It was purchased in 1958 by Adelaide’s Art Gallery of South Australia through a South Australian Government Grant.
Biographical information on the life of George Lambert can be found at: https://ultrawolvesunderthefullmoon.blog/2020/12/18/george-washington-lambert/