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Mirror Image

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A circular painting of a cottage interior as though seen in a convex mirror.

DURATION: 2mins 7secs

The convex mirror, c 1916
by George Washington Lambert
oil and pencil on wood
bequeathed 2012
ML 1292

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Senior Curator

This is The Convex Mirror, by George Lambert.  It depicts a group of friends living together in a cottage in Surrey, in England. They’re in a low-beamed living room. Lambert has composed the scene as though they’re reflected through a convex mirror image, disturbed and distorted.

In 1916, Lambert and his wife were staying in the village of Cranleigh, as his son, Constant, was seriously ill with osteomyelitis while he was a student at Christ Hospital School. To pass the time, and to prevent brooding over his son, Lambert painted this work, depicting a room in the cottage. He has worked his own self-portrait into the scene. He looks out of the image in the foreground. His hand seems disembodied. His wife, Amy, is dressed in blue and she stands in the centre of the room. This is a slight air of distortion, possibly also claustrophobia, with the low-ceilinged room and an atmosphere of foreboding and anxiety. Lambert has captured some of his sadness at the recent death of Mrs Halford, who had owned the cottage and had also acted as a grandmother to his children, and I kind of wonder if the empty rocking chair there is suggesting also the passing of Mrs Halford. There is also his anxiety over his son’s illness, but perhaps also a greater unease and apprehension created by the First World War, which had been going for about two years at this point.

A year later, Lambert entered the world of the military, accepting the Australian Government’s offer to be one of Australia’s first official war artists. He was attached as an honorary lieutenant to the Australian Imperial Force, the AIF, who were then fighting Turkish forces in the Middle East. He left London on 25th December 1917, and went on to produce many sketches of servicemen, and horse and camel studies. Many of these preliminary sketches and his personal papers from this war period are held in the library’s collections and his final, large, completed works, depicting famous battle scenes from the war, are held in the Australian War Memorial.