St Petersburg, Russia 1873 – Cobbity, New South Wales, Australia 1930
Materials & Technique: paintings, oil on canvas
La blanchisseuse is one of George W Lambert’s most significant paintings from his time in Paris during 1901–02. It captures a moment in the Lamberts’ daily life in Paris. The models for the painting were Lambert’s wife, Amy, and baby son, Maurice, with their landlady posing as a washerwoman (la blanchisseuse). Maurice was born in Paris on 25 June 1901 and would have been about three months old. The painting presents two different realms of women: the mother and the working woman with her load of washing.
Lambert was interested in the decorative placement of the figures and in the harmonious balance of tone and colour—a unity of effect. He was also concerned with painting various tones of white against white: the ‘washerwoman’ is wearing a black-and-white check skirt; the baby, in a white frock, is playing on a white sheet; and a white bundle of laundry, white hat box and vase of white flowers sit on the table covered by white drapery. The whites, nonetheless, are full of colour, with pinks, blues, yellows and greens added to them. Given the title, La blanchisseuse, which translates literally as ‘the bleacher’ , Lambert was likely emphasising his interest in painting white on white.
Lambert was one of Australia’s most capable portrait painters, war artists and sculptors of the early twentieth century, with considerable finesse and wit. He exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, from 1904 to 1930, and was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1922. A retrospective of his work was organised by the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, in 2007.
This large and impressive painting is an important addition to the Gallery’s Lambert collection, and we are grateful to the Ruth Robertson Bequest, which has enabled us to acquire it.
Anne Gray Head of Australian Art
in artonview, issue 76, Summer 2013