Alma-Tadema, Lawrence

Dutch-English, Classicist, 1836-1912

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The Finding of Moses
Lawrence Alma-Tadema
1239 USD



The Meeting of Antony and Cleopatra
Lawrence Alma-Tadema
618 USD

A Reading from Homer
Lawrence Alma-Tadema
543 USD

In the Tepidarium
Lawrence Alma-Tadema
305 USD
 
Vain Courtship
Lawrence Alma-Tadema
420 USD
 
An Eloquent Silence
Lawrence Alma-Tadema
324 USD
 
Unconscious Rivals
Lawrence Alma-Tadema
626 USD
 
A Greek Woman
Lawrence Alma-Tadema
349 USD

Woman and Flowers
Lawrence Alma-Tadema
319 USD

94 Degrees in the Shade
Lawrence Alma-Tadema
306 USD

Courtship
Lawrence Alma-Tadema
315 USD

Flora
Lawrence Alma-Tadema
310 USD

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Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, OM, RA (8 January 1836 – 25 June 1912) was a Frisian painter of special British denizenship.

Born in Dronrijp, the Netherlands, and trained at the Royal Academy of Antwerp, Belgium, he settled in England in 1870 and spent the rest of his life there. A classical-subject painter, he became famous for his depictions of the luxury and decadence of the Roman Empire, with languorous figures set in fabulous marbled interiors or against a backdrop of dazzling blue Mediterranean Sea and sky.

Though admired during his lifetime for his draftsmanship and depictions of Classical antiquity, his work fell into disrepute after his death, and only since the 1960s has it been re-evaluated for its importance within nineteenth-century English art. 

Style

Alma-Tadema's works are remarkable for the way in which flowers, textures and hard reflecting substances, like metals, pottery, and especially marble, are painted – indeed, his realistic depiction of marble led him to be called the 'marbellous painter'. His work shows much of the fine execution and brilliant colour of the old Dutch masters. By the human interest with which he imbues all his scenes from ancient life he brings them within the scope of modern feeling, and charms us with gentle sentiment and playfulness.

From early in his career, Alma-Tadema was particularly concerned with architectural accuracy, often including objects that he would see at museums – such as the British Museum in London – in his works. He also read many books and took many images from them. He amassed an enormous number of photographs from ancient sites in Italy, which he used for the most precise accuracy in the details of his compositions.

Alma-Tadema was a perfectionist. He worked assiduously to make the most of his paintings, often repeatedly reworking parts of paintings before he found them satisfactory to his own high standards. One humorous story relates that one of his paintings was rejected and instead of keeping it, he gave the canvas to a maid who used it as her table cover. He was sensitive to every detail and architectural line of his paintings, as well as the settings he was depicting. For many of the objects in his paintings, he would depict what was in front of him, using fresh flowers imported from across the continent and even from Africa, rushing to finish the paintings before the flowers died. It was this commitment to veracity that earned him recognition but also caused many of his adversaries to take up arms against his almost encyclopaedic works.

Alma-Tadema's work has been linked with that of European Symbolist painters. As an artist of international reputation, he can be cited as an influence on European figures such as Gustav Klimt and Fernand Khnopff. Both painters incorporate classical motifs into their works and use Alma-Tadema's unconventional compositional devices such as abrupt cut-off at the edge of the canvas. They, like Alma-Tadema, also employ coded imagery to convey meaning to their paintings.

Reputation

Alma-Tadema was among the most financially successful painters of the Victorian era, though never matching Edwin Henry Landseer. For over sixty years he gave his audience exactly what they wanted: distinctive, elaborate paintings of beautiful people in classical settings. His incredibly detailed reconstructions of ancient Rome, with languid men and women posed against white marble in dazzling sunlight provided his audience with a glimpse of a world of the kind they might one day construct for themselves at least in attitude if not in detail. As with other painters, the reproduction rights for prints were often worth more than the canvas, and a painting with its rights still attached may have been sold to Gambart for £10,000 in 1874; without rights it was sold again in 1903, when Alma-Tadema's prices were actually higher, for £2,625. Typical prices were between £2,000 and £3,000 in the 1880s, but at least three works sold for between £5,250 and £6,060 in the 1900s. Prices held well until the general collapse of Victorian prices in the early 1920s, when they fell to the hundreds, where they remained until the 1960s; by 1969 £4,600 had been reached again (the huge effect of inflation must of course be remembered for all these figures).

The last years of Alma-Tadema's life saw the rise of Post-Impressionism, Fauvism, Cubism and Futurism, of which he heartily disapproved. As his pupil John Collier wrote, 'it is impossible to reconcile the art of Alma-Tadema with that of Matisse, Gauguin and Picasso.'

His artistic legacy almost vanished. As attitudes of the public in general and the artists in particular became more sceptical of the possibilities of human achievement, his paintings were increasingly denounced. He was declared "the worst painter of the 19th century" by John Ruskin, and one critic even remarked that his paintings were "about worthy enough to adorn bourbon boxes." After this brief period of being actively derided, he was consigned to relative obscurity for many years. Only since the 1960s has Alma-Tadema's work been re-evaluated for its importance within the nineteenth century, and more specifically, within the evolution of English art.

He is now regarded as one of the principal classical-subject painters of the nineteenth century whose works demonstrate the care and exactitude of an era mesmerised by trying to visualise the past, some of which was being recovered through archaeological research.

Alma-Tadema's meticulous archaeological research, including research into Roman architecture (which was so thorough that every building featured in his canvases could have been built using Roman tools and methods) led to his paintings being used as source material by Hollywood directors in their vision of the ancient world for films such as D. W. Griffith's Intolerance (1916), Ben Hur (1926), Cleopatra (1934), and most notably of all, Cecil B. DeMille's epic remake of The Ten Commandments (1956). Indeed, Jesse Lasky Jr., the co-writer on The Ten Commandments, described how the director would customarily spread out prints of Alma-Tadema paintings to indicate to his set designers the look he wanted to achieve. The designers of the Oscar-winning Roman epic Gladiator used the paintings of Alma-Tadema as a central source of inspiration. Alma-Tadema's paintings were also the inspiration for the design of the interior of Cair Paravel castle in the 2005 film The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

In 1962, New York art dealer Robert Isaacson mounted the first show of Alma-Tadema's work in fifty years; by the late 1960s, the revival of interest in Victorian painting gained impetus, and a number of well-attended exhibitions were held. Allen Funt, the creator and host of the American version of the television show Candid Camera, was a collector of Alma-Tadema paintings at a time when the artist's reputation in the 20th century was at its nadir; in a relatively few years he bought 35 works, about ten percent of Alma-Tadema's output. After Funt was robbed by his accountant (who subsequently committed suicide), he was forced to sell his collection at Sotheby's in London in November 1973. From this sale, the interest in Alma-Tadema was re-awakened.

In 1960, the Newman Gallery firstly tried to sell, then give away (without success) one of his most celebrated works, The Finding of Moses (1904). The initial purchaser had paid £5,250 for it on its completion, and subsequent sales were for £861 in 1935, £265 in 1942, and it was "bought in" at £252 in 1960 (having failed to meet its reserve), but when the same picture was auctioned at Christies in New York in May 1995, it sold for £1.75 million. On 4 November 2010 it was sold for $35,922,500 to an undisclosed bidder at Sotheby's New York, a new record for the artist and a Victorian painting. On 5 May 2011 his "The Meeting of Antony and Cleopatra: 41 BC" was sold at the same auction house for $29.2 million. 

Source: Wikipedia