While staying at the home of his second cousin, Amy, and her husband, Joseph Nield, Lambert painted this familiar scene on the family property. He depicted their blonde-haired, rosy-cheeked daughter, Grace, minding a herd of goats in a clearing among gum trees near a ‘chock-and-log’ fence. The location is within a mile of their homestead, Meryon, in the Warren District in the central west of New South Wales.
Lambert’s carefree, if slightly sentimental, pastoral is sharply focused in the centre and blurred at the edges, suggestive of a misty heat haze on a summer afternoon. The background frieze of eucalypts is decorative. He used a tonalist grey-blue and brown-ochre palette, with strong purple shadows.
This painting was Lambert’s first oil painting of consequence and his first public success. It was purchased by the Art Gallery of New South Wales at the New South Wales Society of Artists exhibition in 1896, for £21. On 4 September 1896 the Sydney Morning Herald called Lambert ‘a promising young artist’ with ‘his first recognised success’, and on 12 September 1896 the Sydney Mail described the painting as ‘a happy little picture’.
The painting was included in the ‘Exhibition of Australian art in London’, held at the Grafton Galleries, London, from 2 April to 7 May 1898.
The subject resembles those which other Australian artists painted in the 1880s and 1890s: identifiably Australian scenes. The child in the bush was a popular theme in Australian art in the 1890s; but whereas some artists presented the frightening aspects of the bush and showed a child lost in it, Lambert was comfortable in the outback and conveyed a harmonious relationship between the young girl and the surrounding bush. He visualised the freedom of childhood and the natural sensuousness of a child immersed in nature.