Lambert made many self-portraits, showing himself in a variety of moods. Here, his lively eyes peer over the top of his spectacles, with smiling mouth and cheeks, seeming to question himself or to make fun of himself. He carefully modelled the head and captured the textures of skin and hair to create a lively and engaging image. He is now aged fifty-four.
In presenting himself looking over his glasses Lambert paid homage to Chardin and his pastel Self-portrait with pince-nez 1771 (Musée du Louvre, Paris), and possibly also to fellow-artist William Orpen’s tribute to Chardin in his Self-portrait with glasses 1907 (Mildura Arts Centre, Victoria).
Lambert often depicted himself with a cigarette or pipe in his mouth, as in this portrait (see cats 29, 84, 89). By selecting the cigarette – or pipe – as one of his chief attributes in so many of his self-portraits he invited the cigarette to become a metaphor. It may be that smoking represented to Lambert an element of freedom or a sense of ease and relaxation. It may be that he saw it as part of his Bohemian or artistic lifestyle. Certainly a number of artists have portrayed themselves, or been depicted, smoking a pipe, such as Otto Dix, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, Ernst Kirchner and Claude Monet. It may be that for Lambert, a pipe or cigarette, like his Vandyke beard, was an integral part of
his identity. George Pitt-Rivers observed that ‘we feel inclined to call attention to the unlighted pipe tightly held between his lips. I have in my possession several photographs of the artist at work ... in each one his lips are firmly gripping an unlighted cigarette, without which he never seemed able to bring himself to pose’ (Lambert 1924, p.40).