Oil on Canvas
h67cm x w36cm
Leicester Galleries, London
Girl with Rose is a portrait of Lamb’s oldest daughter, Henrietta. He painted Henrietta very often and paintings throughout her childhood and into adulthood feature prominently in his work. They are usually sitting portraits often of her reading, making this small portrait of her standing and clutching a rose more curious. It bears some similarity to James Abbott McNeill Whistler’s full length portraits, with its monochromatic ground and limited colour palette. The colours are kept to browns, pinks, white and green, a far cry from the vivid patchwork of The Infant. Yet still flashes of other colours emerge- vermilion buttons, ultramarine shadows. Whistler’s influence on the Camden Town Group is most visible through Walter Sickert, the group’s de facto leader, who had worked in Whistler’s studio as a young artist. Whistler would fall in Sickert’s estimation, who he considered ‘excessively tasteful’, but the importance of Whistler to Sickert’s artistic development and by extension the rest of the Camden Town Group has often been underlined. It is interesting to see Lamb revive some tropes of Whistler’s painting three decades later.
Henrietta was the oldest of Henry and Pansy’s three children. She was bookish and artistically talented herself but after studying at Somerville College, Oxford she made her career as a garden designer. She worked for many years at Kensington and Chelsea Council and shaped the look of the Royal Borough. Henrietta met the silversmith William Phipps when Henry Lamb painted William’s father Sir Eric Phipps, the British Ambassador to Berlin between 1933-37. Henrietta and William married in 1960, the same year Henry Lamb died. Henrietta was instrumental in preserving her father’s legacy. She often lent works for exhibitions and worked closely with art historians for much of her life.
Abandoning his medical studies to become an artist, in 1905 Lamb moved to London where he studied under Augustus John and William Orpen at their short-lived Chelsea Art School. A highly gifted draughtsman he soon moved to Paris, and painted in Brittany. On his return to London he made his name with an extraordinary full-life sized portrait of Lytton Strachey (now in the Tate).