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On display on Level 1


St Petersburg, Russia 1873 – Cobbity, New South Wales, Australia 1930

  • Australia 1887-1900
  • France and England 1900-21
  • Australia from 1921

La Blanchisseuse c 1901 Place made: Paris, France
Materials & Technique: paintings, oil on canvas

Dimensions: 108.0 h x 149.0 w cm framed 135.0 h x 180.0 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased with the assistance of the Ruth Robertson Bequest Fund, in memory of Robert and Elizabeth Dennis 2013 100 Works for 100 Years
Accession No: NGA 2013.4342
  • Collection of Amy Lambert, London.
  • Collection of Maurice Lambert, London.
  • Collection of John Brackenreg, Sydney.
  • unknown
  • Collection of Geoff K. Gray, Sydney June 1976.
  • Collection of Mr and Mrs Richard Crebbin, Sydney.
  • Private collection, Melbourne.
  • Purchased by the National Gallery of Australia, from Lauraine Diggins Fine Art, Melbourne, 2013.

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