Identifying the patient in George W Lambert's Chesham Street

Hammerschlag, Keren Rosa
June 2013
Medical Humanities;Jun2013, Vol. 39 Issue 1, p20
Academic Journal
This paper takes as its focus one of the Edwardian period's most dramatic and little-understood paintings of a medical examination: George Washington Lambert's Chesham Street (1910). The painting shows an upper-class male patient lifting his shirt to reveal a muscular torso for examination by the doctor in the scene and the viewers outside it. The subject of a medical examination, I argue, legitimised the scrutiny of exposed male flesh and offered an opportunity for sensual pleasure between men. By way of a comparison with other portraits of the artist from around the same period, I interpret Chesham Street as a patient self-portrait, which reveals the artist's dual personalities of bohemian artist and Australian boxer: two personae that did not combine seamlessly, as revealed by the composite nature of the patient in Chesham Street. From a discussion of the artist as patient, I move to an analysis of other self-portraits by Lambert in which the artist is shown flexing his muscles, especially in the context of his passion for boxing. I consider how these portraits serve as complex inscriptions of illness and health and how this relates to the experience of living and working as an Australian expatriate artist in London in the early twentieth century.


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