Born 13 September 1873 in St. Petersburg, Lambert was the son of an American engineer working on the Tsar’s railway system, and an English mother. After his father’s death, the family moved to Wurtemberg and then to Somerset, England, before arriving in Australia in 1887. Lambert had a late artistic training under Julian Ashton at his Académie Julien in Sydney, and in 1900 won the first New South Wales Society of Artists’ Travelling Scholarship. He enrolled at Colarossi’s in Paris for one year, and then moved to London, in 1902, where he lived until 1921.
In 1917 he was appointed an official Australian war artist with the Australian Imperial Force and travelled to Egypt and Palestine. The following year he painted a remarkable series of paintings at Gallipoli.
Anzacs Bathing in the Sea is a unique depiction of Australian soldiers at the Front during the First World War. Three young men frolic in the foaming blue sea, in a break from the brutalities of battle; the light gilds and defines, in scrupulous detail, the musculature of the soldiers’ bodies. Given its date of 1914, Anzacs Bathing is probably the progenitor of subsequent images and literature in which the Anzacs are compared to the Greek heroes of antiquity. In 1914 the war, which had only begun in August, was still for many a marvellous adventure, when mere mortals could achieve heroic deeds, and Lambert’s joyous paean to masculinity could only have been painted in this context.
George Washington Lambert (1873-1930)
Anzacs Bathing in the Sea, 1914
Oil on canvas signed lower left: G. W. Lambert
26.3 x 36 cm M31