Lamb was an Australian-born British painter who was a founding member of the Camden Town Group in 1911 and the London Group in 1913. He is noted for his unusual portraits, epitomised by his haunting and moving image Death of a Peasant, painted in oil during 1911. In December 1940, Lamb was appointed a full-time war artist to the War Office and subsequently produced a large number of portraits and figure paintings, capturing high-ranking commanders along with servicemen and women. Although Lamb’s portrait work is certainly informed by his medical background, his paintings are arguably more concerned with the personality and individuality of the sitter — rather than correctly capturing their anatomical ‘heads’.
Lamb’s technical prowess triangulates the often binary relationship between sitter and painter, extending an invite of communication outwards to the modern-day viewer. His intimate, cropped style and soft, muted colours sympathetically domesticates his subjects, making them feel like friends or relatives, rather than strangers painted nearly a century ago. Lamb’s ‘Portrait of Cecil Beaton’ serves to illustrate this point, perfectly capturing the elegance, splendour and finesse of this photographer and socialite. Between the Wars, Lamb lived locally at Coombe Bisset, playing host to a number of writers, artists and intellectuals, including Benjamin Britten, Evelyn Waugh and Beaton. The energy, creativity and the sense of community of this time is clearly reflected in the confidence of the brushstrokes along with the ease of the sitter.
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