Hera Roberts (1892–1950s?) was a painter, illustrator and designer, and a Sydney socialite. She is best known for her covers for The Home magazine, a monthly publication for the independent, modern Australian woman, which aimed to emulate the international magazines Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue . Her artwork incorporated vivid colours, geometric shapes, sharp angles and streamlined forms. She exhibited with the New South Wales Society of Artists and was one of a group of modernist artists who exhibited furniture and decor at Burdekin House in 1929. She designed hats and frocks for the fashionable millinery and dress shop, June, which she owned with Pauline Watt and Jocelyn Gaden. She was Thea Proctor’s cousin and the mistress of the married publisher and artist Sydney Ure Smith.
In Hera Lambert created a modernist portrait of a noted Sydney socialite. He used an angular, abstract composition, clear strong lines and hard edges. Through his use of bold colour contrasts (the bright flame colour of the frock and the shimmering blue of the shawl) and simplified forms on a flat plane, he created an image of a new woman. He presented her with the symmetrical face, elongated neck and cosmetic-ised finish of the modern woman. She has a tranquil expression on her face, but her animated eyes and gentle smile suggest her personality. The flower study painted with dashing brushwork creates a counterpoint to the figure.
To some extent Lambert created a portrait which mirrors the highly stylised cover designs with bold colour combinations for The Home magazine, both by Thea Proctor using Hera as a model and, after 1927, by Hera herself. As Lambert depicted Hera, these images frequently show women in angular and yet poised positions, with intelligent, chic faces and short cropped hair, almond shaped eyes and rosebud lips.
Lambert wrote to Amy on 19 January 1924 that he was going to paint a portrait ‘of the beautiful Thea Proctor cousin one Hera Roberts tomorrow’ and that ‘this most expensive luxury may help to set me on my … feet’ (ML MSS 97/10, p.530). Lambert held this painting in high regard and suggested to Amy that ‘in some respects [it] is better than the self portrait [Self-portrait with gladioli (cat.89)]’ (ML MSS 97/10, p.461). He wrote to his agent on 13 July 1928 that he was ‘very proud of it’, but that ‘it is a painting little understood’ (ML MSS 285/6).