Thursday, December 3, 2009

Talkin' 'Bout My Generation

An exhibition opens at Canberra's National War Museum today titled "of Love and War" which "looks at the impact of war on relationships and the ways in which Australians incorporated affairs of the heart into their wartime lives."

Featured in the exhibition will be works by the great Australian WW1 war artist George Washington Lambert. Lambert, one of the first of the colonies great artists has an extraordinary link with one of the world's most enduring and possibly greatest rock'n'roll bands, The Who.       
                                                                                  self-portrait :G.W.Lambert
Born in St Petersburg, Russia to an American father and English mother, Lambert's family emigrated to Australia via Germany in 1887 when Lambert was 13 years old. Winning a variety of art prizes and a scholarship to study at the Royal Academy in London, Lambert was hailed as fine portraitist and won numerous awards in the UK before returning home. In 1917 he became the official Gallipoli artist for the Australian government.

left : Pete Townshend & Kit Lambert

Fast forward to 1966 and a young ex-British army officer and budding film director sets out in London with partner Chris Stamp to find the ultimate rock band after watching the success of The Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

George Washington's grandson Kit Lambert was successful in his bid and launched the re-badged High Numbers onto the world as The Who. The Who's success has never waned and the band's music is still being used in current US TV shows. It was Lambert who patiently tutored Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey into seeing music in a new way. And thus a new genre-the rock opera Tommy was born.

The influences for Tommy came from George Washington's son, and Kit's father, Constant Lambert, the English classical composer and conductor who swept a young rising ballet star of her feet. A scandal swept London society when it was revealed that a 16 year old Margot Fonteyn had become pregnant to Constant. An abortion followed.

There was a running theme through the male Lambert's psyche-all were convinced they would die young. And so they did. George at 57, Constant and Kit, both at 46.

# of Love and War runs to 5th May 2010                                                           
                                                           Christopher Wood's portrait of Constant Lambert