Original name: Lourens Alma Tadema
Name: Lawrence Alam-Tadema
birth place: Dronryp, Netherland
birth date: 8 January 1836
zodiac sign: Capricorn
death place: Wiesbaden, Germany
death date: 25 June 1912
Profile of Lawrence Alma-Tadema
Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, was a Dutch 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 British art.
Biography of Lawrence Alma-Tadema
Lourens Alma Tadema was born on 8 January 1836 in the village of Dronrijp in the province of Friesland in the north of the Netherlands.
The Tadema family moved in 1838 to the nearby city of Leeuwarden, where his father Pieter's position as a notary would be more lucrative, but Pieter died two years later when Lourens was only four, leaving his mother with five children. His mother had artistic leanings, and decided that drawing lessons should be incorporated into the children's education. He received his first art training with a local drawing master hired to teach his older half-brothers.
It was intended that the boy would become a lawyer; but in 1851 at the age of fifteen he suffered a physical and mental breakdown and given only a short time to live, he was allowed to spend his remaining days as he wanted, drawing and painting. Thus miraculously he regained his health and decided to pursue a career as an artist. From 1858, Tadema began working with the painter Baron Jan August Hendrik Leys, whose studio was one of the most highly regarded in Belgium. Under his guidance Alma-Tadema painted his first major work: The Education of the children of Clovis (1861). This painting created a sensation among critics and artists when it was exhibited that year at the Artistic Congress in Antwerp. It is said to have laid the foundation of his fame and reputation.
In 1862 Alma-Tadema left Leys's studio and started his own career, establishing himself as a significant classical-subject European artist.
In September 1863, Lawrence Alma-Tadema married to Marie-Pauline Gressin Dumoulin, the daughter of a French journalist, they had two daughters and one son, who died after a few months of birth.
While on his honeymoon, Tadema went to Italy with his wife, his first visit there, and it was that he developed his interest in depicting the life of ancient Greece and Rome, especially the latter which fascinated him and would inspire much of his work in the coming decades.
In 1869, Tadema's wife died and he himself suffered health problems, he went to London in search of better medical opinion, and there he met and fell in love with Laura Theresa Epps, which made him decide to move to London, where he would spend the rest of life.
After his arrival in England, Alma-Tadema's career was one of continued success. He became one of the most famous and highly paid artists of his time, acknowledged and rewarded. By 1871 he had met and befriended most of the major Pre-Raphaelite painters and it was in part due to their influence that the artist brightened his palette, varied his hues, and lightened his brushwork.
In 1872 Alma-Tadema organised his paintings into an identification system by including an opus number under his signature and assigning his earlier pictures numbers as well. Portrait of my sister, Artje, painted in 1851, is numbered opus I, while two months before his death he completed Preparations in the Coliseum, opus CCCCVIII. Such a system would make it difficult for fakes to be passed off as originals.
On 19 June 1879, Alma-Tadema was made a full Academician, his most personally important award. Three years later a major retrospective of his entire oeuvre was organised at the Grosvenor Gallery in London, including 185 of his pictures.
In 1883 he returned to Rome and, most notably, Pompeii, where further excavations had taken place since his last visit. He spent a significant amount of time studying the site, going there daily. These excursions gave him an ample source of subject matter as he began to further his knowledge of daily Roman life.
One of his most famous paintings is The Roses of Heliogabalus (1888) – based on an episode from the life of the debauched Roman Emperor Elagabalus (Heliogabalus), the painting depicts the Emperor suffocating his guests at an orgy under a cascade of rose petals. The blossoms depicted were sent weekly to the artist's London studio from the Riviera for four months during the winter of 1887–1888.
Alma-Tadema's output decreased with time, partly on account of health, but also because of his obsession with decorating his new home, to which he moved in 1883. Nevertheless, he continued to exhibit throughout the 1880s. In 1899 he was Knighted in England, only the eighth artist from the Continent to receive the honour.
During this time, Alma-Tadema was very active with theatre design and production, designing many costumes. He also spread his artistic boundaries and began to design furniture, often modelled after Pompeian or Egyptian motifs, illustrations, textiles, and frame making. His diverse interests highlight his talents. Each of these exploits were used in his paintings, as he often incorporated some of his designed furniture into the composition, and must have used many of his own designs for the clothing of his female subjects.
In 1909 Alma-Tadema's wife, Laura, died at the age of fifty-seven. Three years later in the summer of 1912, Alma-Tadema was accompanied by his daughter Anna to Kaiserhof Spa, Wiesbaden, Germany where he was to undergo treatment for ulceration of the stomach.He died there on 28 June 1912 at the age of seventy-six.
Style of Lawrence Alma-Tadema
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.