Lawrence Alma-Tadema – part 1

Self-Portrait 1852 (aged approx 16) oil on canvas 55.9 x 48.3 cm
Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836 – 1912) was born Laurens Tadema in Dronrijp, Holland in 1836. In 1852 he became a student at the Royal Academy of Antwerp, where he studied under a number of noted practitioners of the Romantic school. At this time his interest in the Ancient World and archaeology came about, and became the driving force in his whole artistic career.

In 1862 he visited London for the first time, where he saw and was impressed by the Elgin Marbles, as well as some ancient Egyptian artefacts. In 1863 he married Pauline Gressin de Boisgirard, and they honeymooned in Italy, a magnet for most aspiring artists of the time. Whilst in Italy he made several visits to the newly excavated ruins of Pompeii, and kept a photographic record of these visits.

On returning from Italy the couple moved to Paris, where Tadema met the celebrated art dealer Gambert, who quickly realised the potential of his young Dutch friend. At around this time the painter produced a number of pictures featuring his wife as a model. Pauline died in 1869. At around this time, helped by the connections of Gambert, Tadema’s paintings started to attract attention in London. This was followed by a move to London in 1870, probably motivated by the political instability on the Continent as well as progressing his career.

In London he took pupils whist he established himself, and in 1871 he married his seventeen year old pupil Laura Epps, daughter of a prosperous doctor who was also an international merchant. This second marriage was enduring and happy, though childless, and Laura became stepmother to his two children by Pauline . Laura was herself an artist of talent, she was an intelligent woman, and her work was not derivative of that of her husband.

Portrait of Miss Laura Epps c 1871 oil on canvas 51 x 41 cm
Around this time Laurens Tadema became Lawrence Alma-Tadema, a change which shrewdly moved his name forward in catalogues and exhibitions. He also became a naturalised British Subject. He started to become both commercially and critically successful, with John Ruskin one of the few dissenters.
The Tademas also became well known on the social circuit, shrewdly associating with the wealthy upper middle class society from which his major clients were drawn. In 1883 the family moved from Regents Park to the house in St John’s Wood formerly occupied by Tissot and his mistress Kathleen Newton. Here they held the famous ‘At Homes,’ which were to become a feature of London Society.

Alma-Tadema in his London studio

Interior 'Hall of Panels'
The Tademas loved music, which was a part of these evenings, and among the guests were Paderewski and Tchaikovsky. Other notable guests included the Prince of Wales and Tadema’s great friend Frederic, Lord Leighton, President of the Royal Academy. The house was much extended and featured a magnificent studio with a dome and gallery.
In 1899 Tadema was knighted in the special Birthday Honours List to celebrate the eightieth birthday of Queen Victoria. A banquet was held on 4th November in celebration of the knighthood of the popular painter. It was attended by a large number of fellow Academicians and friends, and a speech by the great man was received with acclamation.
In 1902 Tadema was created a member of the Order of Merit, the new honour in the direct gift of the sovereign King Edward VII. By 1905 the critical reputation of the artist had started to decline, and in 1909 Lady Alma-Tadema died.
Lawrence Alma-Tadema continued to paint, but his output decreased, and he died at the Spa in the German town of Weisbaden in June 1912. He left a considerable sum of money to the Royal Academy. 

This is part 1 0f a 3-part post on the works of Lawrence Alma-Tadema.

1854 Mary Magdalene oil on paper mounted on panel 31 x 35 cm

1856 The Blind Beggar oil on canvas 63.5 x 54 cm

1857 Faust and Marguerite watercolour 45.2 x 50.1 cm

1859 The Sad Father oil on canvas 68.6 x 86.4 cm

1859-69c Crossing of the River Berizina, 1812 oil on canvas 39 x 73 cm

1860 The Death of Hippolytus oil on canvas

1860s-70s Standing Roman pen & ink, brush & wash 26.6 x 18 cm

1861 Egyptian Chess Players oil on wood 39.8 x 55.8 cm

1861 The Education of the Children of Clovis oil on canvas 127 x 176.8 cm

1861 The Roman Wine Tasters oil on canvas

1862 Venantius Fortunatus Reading His Poems to Radegonda VI, AD 555 oil on canvas 65 x 83.1 cm

1863 Interior of the Church of San Clemente, Rome oil on canvas 63.5 x 51 cm

1863 Pastimes in Ancient Egypt, 3,000 Years Ago oil on canvas 99.1 x 135.8 cm

1864 Leaving Church in the Fifteenth Century oil on canvas 57.1 x 39.4 cm

1865 Catullus at Lesbia's oil on wood 39.5 x 54.5 cm

1865 Egyptian Chess Players oil on wood 39.8 x 55.8 cm

1865 Gallo-Roman Women oil on canvas 80.6 x 101.6 cm

1866 A Picture Gallery oil on canvas
Tadema appears to have painted three versions, over an eight year period, of the theme in the "A Picture Gallery" painting above. Here are the other two:

1867 A Collector of Pictures at the Time of Augustus oil on wood 71 x 46.4 cm

1874 The Picture Gallery oil on canvas 219.7 x 166 cm

1866 Entrance to a Roman Theatre oil on canvas 70.4 x 98.4 cm

1866 In the Peristylum oil on canvas

1866 Lesbia Weeping over a Sparrow

1866 Preparations for the Festivities oil on canvas

1866 Tibullus at Delia's oil on wood 43.9 x 66 cm

1867 A Sculpture Gallery in Rome at the Time of Augustus oil on wood 62.2 x 46.9 cm

1867 Claudius Summoned to the Imperial Throne oil on wood 40.6 x 58.4 cm

1867 Glaucus and Nydia oil on wood 39 x 64.3 cm

1867 My Studio oil on wood 42.1 x 54 cm

1867 Proclaiming Claudius Emperor, Pous XLVIII oil on wood 47 x 61 cm

1867 Tarquinius Superbus oil on wood

1868 Portrait of Mme. Bonnefoy and M. Puttemans

1868 A Roman Art Lover oil on wood 53.3 x 80 cm

1868 Boating oil on canvas 82.5 x 56.3 cm

1868 Pheidias and the Frieze of the Parthenon, Athens oil on wood 72 x 110.5 cm

1868 The Education of the Children of Clovis oil on canvas 127 x 176.8 cm

1868 The Flower Market oil on wood 42.1 x 58 cm

1868 The Honeymoon oil on wood

1868 A Scene from Pompeii / The Siesta oil on canvas 130 x 360 cm

1868 A Scene from Pompeii / The Siesta oil on canvas 130 x 360 cm

1868 Woman and Flowers oil on panel 49.8 x 37.2 cm

1868-69 Pheidias and the Frieze of the Parthenon oil on wood 72.5 x 109 cm

1869 A Greek Woman oil on canvas 47.1 x 66.7 cm

1869 An Exedra oil on wood 38 x 59.8 cm

1869 The Pyrrhic Dance  oil on wood 31 x 81 cm

1870 A Juggler oil on canvas 78.7 x 49.5 cm

1870 A Roman Art Lover oil on wood 73.5 x 101.6 cm

1870 The Vintage Festival oil on canvas 177 x 77 cm

1870s A Floral Bank oil on canvas 18 x 26.5 cm

1871 Bacchanale oil on canvas

1871 From an Absent One watercolour 39 x 26.4 cm

1871 In the Temple oil on wood 89.5 x 52 cm

1871 Pottery Painting oil on wood

1871c Sunday Morning oil on wood 40 x 33 cm

1872 A Roman Emperor AD 41 oil on canvas 83.8 x 174.2 cm