Oil on canvas
102 x 107 cm
‘Bathers’ is set in a distinctively Wiltshire landscape. We see four women and a small child bathing and washing in the River Ebble which bordered the Lambs’ garden. This rural idyll in some ways recalls his early flirtations with symbolism, or perhaps the dream-like pastoral scenes of Pierre Puvis de Chavannes and French Neo-Symbolism in the late 19th Century, transported to his home in the English countryside. ‘Bathers’ just shies from these fantasy scenes, brought strangely back to reality with the inclusion of two clothed figures by a bridge in the background. It becomes closer to an observed scene than an imaged one, though an ambiguity remains. The bathing pictures are most common in the decade after Lamb moved to Coombe Bissett, evoking the rural idyll he found there after the mechanised horror of the war and years flitting between different cities and homes.
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).