Lambert painted a particular place, but he generalised the specific people and setting so that it becomes a pleasant garden scene. The garden at St Luke’s Hospital is one of a group of works, painted on his return to Australia, which present everyday life. He captured the effects of light on the ground and figures, evoking the languid atmosphere of a summer’s afternoon.
Lambert probably painted the work outdoors, using high-keyed colours, and giving the image a sense of freshness and spontaneity. The composition, however, is carefully structured: the figures are positioned carefully so as to enhance the overall sensation of space, with the field of vision limited by the mass of trees at the back and a low viewpoint adopted to create greater involvement in the scene.
The location is the grounds of St Luke’s Hospital, Potts Point, to which Lambert went when he needed to recuperate from his recurrent attacks of malaria and exhaustion from overwork, as well as heart strain. He first went there for a rest cure in October 1922 when he was told to ‘go slow’ and warned of the consequences of working long hours. At the end of 1924 he had another retreat to hospital after ‘being played out and overworked’ after painting The charge of the 3rd Light Horse Brigade at the Nek (cat.95) . He was in hospital in August 1925 and again in June 1926.
The garden at St Luke’s was purchased by a private collector, Arthur Wigram Allen, from the New South Wales Society of Artists exhibition in 1923.