For almost 100 years George Lambert’s Anzac, the landing 1915 has been one of Australia’s most iconic war paintings.
The painting depicts the brave Australian diggers of WWI scrambling their way up the steep cliffs of Gallipoli in what would later become one of Australia’s most significant military battles.
The painting, however, includes something that is almost never found in official Australian war-time art - deliberate inaccuracies.
Margaret Hutchison, PhD candidate in the ANU School of History explains that one of the major issues surrounding the painting was the caps versus hats debate.
“Lambert painted almost all the soldiers wearing the iconic Australian slouch hat, despite veterans insisting many of the men had been wearing the small cap that was typical of the early Australian uniform,” Ms Hutchison said.
Ms Hutchison explains that in a surprising decision, Directors of the Official War Art Scheme, Charles Bean and John Treloar, supported Lambert’s proposed diversion from reality.
“They would usually preference veterans’ accounts and would often ask official artists to re-paint images that didn’t accord with veterans memories, but the slouch hat added a distinctly Australian element to the painting,” she said.
The official art scheme was launched in 1917. Because the scheme started almost two years after the Gallipoli campaign, the art had to be collected and created retrospectively.
In 1919 Lambert was commissioned with a painting of the landing and the Nek. Ms Hutchison said that with the benefit of hindsight, Bean and Treloar understood the significance of the Gallipoli landing, which led to the decision to support Lambert’s approach.
“They fully supported Lambert’s artistic licence,” Ms Hutchison said.
“It’s serving a greater purpose, and providing an image which was emblematic of the campaign.
“Bean believes it captures ‘the Glory of Anzac’,” she said.
Margaret Hutchison’s research focuses on the construction of a national memory of the First World War in Australia’s official war art scheme.
Her comments came as part of the Gallipoli 1915: a century on conference jointly hosted by the ANU and Australian War Memorial.