In this self-portrait Lambert portrayed himself in the uniform of a Light Horseman, displaying his much-prized plumed hat and a water bottle, another souvenir of his time as an honorary officer. His other hand holds up a glass to give cheer to former Light Horse companions, and he looks directly at us. He has a rather pleased, self-confident expression and a rather self-satisfied but somewhat enigmatic smile. His moustache and Vandyke beard, and his pink cheeks, give him a healthy look for his age of forty-seven.
Lambert painted this self-portrait rapidly, with long, quick, spontaneous brushstrokes. While depicting himself in military uniform, he created a sense of informality by showing himself in a flannel shirt, with sleeves rolled up and forearms bare. He added to the humour of the image by showing himself with a light-hearted label – which indicates that both he and the portrait are ‘DEDICATED/ TO THE/ AUST. LIGHT HORSE/ PALESTINE’.
The painting ably illustrates the sentiments in the poem Lambert’s friend Arthur Adams wrote about him on his death:
his laughter boisterous he loudly spent,
From masterpiece to masterpiece he went.
Curvetting gaily round his eager course:
We love and mourn our Laughing Cavalier!
This was the last work that Lambert painted in England before his departure for Australia in February 1921. It was purchased for the National Gallery of Victoria, together with
A sergeant of the Light Horse (cat.82), when they were exhibited at the Fine Art Society’s Gallery, Melbourne, in May 1921.
Later, in 1924, when it was reproduced in a book on his art, Lambert called it Souvenir of the Light Horse (self-portrait) .