Sunday, June 25, 2023


ON June 25th we remember Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, who died on this day in 1912, one of the most famous painters of the late 19th Century who was forgotten in the 20th Century and is only now beginning to be rediscovered in the 21st Century.

No Victorian artist painted marble as well as Alma-Tadema ... or painted faces so that you could read the emotions from facial expressions ... as in "Bacchanale" 1871 above.

Alma-Tadema, the now sadly forgotten painter who was one of the biggest celebrities of the Victorian art scene. 

Born in Holland on 8 January 1836, and trained in Antwerp, he settled in England in 1870 and became the toast of London with his enormous, wall-sized paintings of scenes of luxury and decadence in Ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. 

Viewing his paintings in a London gallery was the equivalent of going to an Imax 3-D Sense-Surround cinema today. 

His attention to color and to near-photographic detail was superb. Every petal of every flower was always perfect. Each face had a personal story to tell. 

The painting "Hadrian Visiting a Romano-British Pottery" (above) displays Alma-Tadema's mastery of textures, colors, facial expressions and architectural details ... just look at the exquisite mosaics.

Alas, fame and celebrity are fleeting things. Styles changed and his work went out of fashion. He died a bitter and disappointed man in June 1912. 

That was only a couple of weeks after Nijinsky had shocked ballet-goers in Paris by masturbating on stage, and it was barely a month after the Titanic had sunk. 

Very soon war would break out and the world would never be the same. 

It was the end of the Gilded Age of complacency, comfort and ease. 

Alma-Tadema' s paintings were derided as "kitschy" and were stored away in attics and warehouses. 

Once the most famous artist in Britain, he was soon forgotten and serious art historians ignored him for decades. 

In recent years, however, his genius has been rediscovered and a new generation of admirers delight in his magnificent paintings, a few of which have been brought out of storage for display for the first time in more than a century.

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