Denali from Susitna Slope

by Theodore Lambert
oil on canvas 20 x 24

Theodore “Ted” Lambert was a restless young man born in Zion, Illinois, in 1905. He showed an early talent for drawing and at 15 won a correspondence course in illustration. During this time he worked as a sign painter but eventually ran away from home to Los Angeles. He landed in Cordova in 1926 and for the next six years he worked as a miner, delivered mail, trapped, and prospected. It seems he continued to sketch throughout these years and in 1932 he went to Chicago to study art formally. At this point his drawing gave way to painting. In 1933-34 he travelled to Seattle to work alongside Eustace Ziegler, and the pair travelled around Alaska in 1935. Lambert settled in Bethel, where he met his wife. They moved to Fairbanks, but were divorced in 1945.

At this point, it seems Lambert became withdrawn and paranoid, refusing visits from all but his closest friends. His mental health deteriorated and in 1960 he disappeared. His body was never discovered. Some years later his cabin was cleared, and a number of artworks were recovered, along with a manuscript and portfolio.

Despite his tragic end, Lambert continues to be considered one of the truest illustrators of real Alaskan life, as, having done many of the grueling jobs himself, he was able to paint them without romance and was well received by those he drew as they knew he had intimate knowledge of the reality they experienced.