Michelago landscape shows one of Lambert’s favourite places, where he painted several landscapes, including The squatter’s daughter (cat.94). He described the landscape in a poem:
The sun is down and ‘Micalago’ is at rest
Like Chinese silk of faded gold, the grass and all the hills like breasts of turtle-doves ...
my soul could find a home ’midst blades of grass
And get its music from the whispering trees ...
These pleasant little hills that lure us on
To ride and ride until we reach beyond.
In this landscape Lambert depicted the gentle undulating Monaro country. He focused on form and pattern, emphasising the rhythmical sweep of the rolling hills and valleys and the pattern of the vegetation dotting the middle distance.
He probably painted this small panel out of doors, but eliminated aspects of the scene to fit his final composition. The cloudy sky possibly suggests impending rain.
In painting this landscape Lambert may also have thought back to the work of earlier artists. He commented in 1927 that ‘when I am fortunate enough to give some time to the representation of the landscape of the Monaro I cannot help thanking the fate that brought me into touch with Persian, Chinese and Italian landscape painting’ (ML MSS 97/8, item 5).
Lambert had met Major General Sir Granville Ryrie in 1918, while serving as an official war artist in Palestine during the First World War. Following his return to Australia in 1921, he first visited the Ryrie property Micalago (at Michelago on the road from Canberra to Cooma) in January 1922, and became a regular visitor there over the following years.