[1] Maurice Lambert RA, Carving in Paros Marble, c.1937. Photo: RA/Paul Highnam © Royal Academy of Arts, London

[2] Unidentified Photographer, Maurice Lambert RA with a design for the ocean liner 'Queen Elizabeth', c.1939. Photo: RA © Royal Academy of Arts, London

[3] Maurice Lambert RA, Bust of Sir Gerald Kelly PRA, 1954. Photo: RA/Paul Highnam © Royal Academy of Arts, London

[4] Unidentified Photographer, Maurice Lambert RA in his studio probably Logan Place, London W8, c.1930s. Photo: RA © Royal Academy of Arts, London

Artist of the Month - September 2017


Maurice Lambert RA (1901 - 1964)

Maurice Lambert was born in Paris in 1901; his father was the Australian artist George Lambert ARA and his brother Constant Lambert became a composer. At the age of seventeen he was apprenticed to the artist Francis Derwent Wood for five years. He assisted Derwent Wood with his Machine Gun Corps Monument at Hyde Park Corner, unveiled in 1925. Lambert attended life classes at Chelsea School of Art from 1920 to 1925 before exhibiting for the first time in 1925 in a group show at the Goupil Gallery. He had his first one man show just two years later at the Claridge Gallery which included sculpture in diverse mediums such as wood, sandstone, alabaster, Portland stone, bronze, lead, copper, aluminium and concrete. He was a prolific artist and exhibited nearly 150 works between 1925 and 1934.

Lambert's works are largely figurative, often with rounded forms reminiscent of classicism, in a style that was popular with British sculptors in the 1920s and '30s. Interested in mythology, many of his works centre on birds or fish such as his Carving in Paros Marble in which a figure clasps a fish, apparently weightless under water [1]. The dynamic form that suggests movement with diagonal arms, legs and torso is an incredible feat of carving. Paros marble was favoured by the sculptors of ancient Greece for its pure white quality and he said that this was carved from 'the most perfect block of marble I ever saw'.

In the late 1930s, Lambert undertook several large-scale commissions, including a 50-foot frieze for the liner Queen Mary, a 40-foot figure representing the 'Spirit of Britain' for the New York World Fair and a bronze titled Oceanides for the first class foyer of the liner Queen Elizabeth [2].

Alongside his modernist sculptures, Lambert produced representative portrait busts, often as commissions. His subjects included Sir Winston Churchill, Edith Sitwell, Adrian Stokes and a life-size figure of Margot Fonteyn. The Royal Academy commissioned Lambert to create a bust of Sir Gerald Kelly on his retirement as President in 1954 [3]. In The Builder, Marjorie Morrison described the work: 'in this skilful and sensitive portrait the penetrating eye, understanding mind and clever hand of Maurice Lambert expose the lively character of the man underlying the dignity of the president. The pose giving emphasis to the hands, is a happy one'.

Although Lambert was a private man who avoided discussing his work, photographs from his studio allude to his working processes with drawings pinned to the wall and an eclectic array of sculptures filling the space [4]. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of British Sculptors in 1938 and having resigned in 1948 elected again in 1951. When he first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1938 his sculpture Head of a Woman was purchased under the terms of the Chantrey bequest for the Tate. He was elected an ARA in 1941 and RA in 1952. He acted as Master of the Royal Academy sculpture school from 1950 to 1958.

Maurice Lambert's Carving in Paros Marble is part of a new display curated by Richard Deacon RA on The Dame Jillian Sackler Sculpture Gallery.

His Bust of Sir Gerald Kelly PRA is on display in the General Assembly Room and can be viewed by attending one of the free tours of the John Madejski Fine Rooms.