Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836-1912) was born in Dronrijp, Netherlands. He was educated at the Royal Academy of Antwerp, Belgium. He settled in England in 1870. He spent the rest of his life there. A classical painter, he became famous for his depictions of the luxury and decline of the Roman Empire. It is famous for its frantic figures in gorgeous marble interiors or against a dazzling blue Mediterranean and sky backdrop.
In 1852 he entered the Royal Academy of Antwerp in Belgium, where he studied Dutch and Flemish art under Gustaf Wappers. Alma-Tadema won many prestigious awards during her four years as a student.
Before leaving school, towards the end of 1855, he took lessons in historical costume from painter and professor Louis (Lodewijk) Jan de Taeye. Although De Taeye was not a distinguished painter, Alma-Tadema respected him. She became the studio assistant working with him for three years. De Taeye introduced books that influenced his desire to revive Merovingian subjects early in his career.
Then he returned to Leeuwarden. Here he studied with the painter Baron Jan August Hendrik Leys. Under his guidance, Alma-Tadema produced his first major work: The Education of Clovis' Children (1861). When this painting was exhibited at the Art Congress in Antwerp that year, it caused a stir among critics and artists. It is said that he laid the foundation for his fame.
After settling in England, where he would spend the rest of his life, Alma-Tadema reached the pinnacle of his career. He became one of the most famous and highly paid artists of his time. In 1871 he met many of the great pre-Raphaelite painters.
In 1873 he made a voyage in Continental Europe. He went to Brussels, Germany and Italy. In Italy he toured the ancient ruins again. He bought a large number of photographs, often consisting of relics. This started a large collection of folios containing enough archival material to document the use of future paintings to complete. In January 1876 he rented a studio in Rome. The family returned to London in April and visited the Paris Salon on the way back.
Lawrence Alma-Tadema Paintings, Paintings
Roses of Heliogabalus (1888), oil on canvas, 132.1 × 213.7 cm, private collection. Because it was painted during the winter, Tadema spent four months on the French Riviera to check the accuracy of each petal. An episode from the life of the Roman Emperor Elagabalus (Heliogabalus), this painting depicts the Emperor strangling his guests in an orgy under a row of rose petals. The flowers depicted were sent weekly to the artist's London studio on the Riviera for four months during the winters of 1887–1888.
Unconscious Rivals, (1893), oil on panel, 45 × 63 cm, on display at Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery. Alma-Tadema's female figures have a somewhat bored pleasure-seeking demeanor, as if mercifully spoiled. There is little movement in Alma-Tadema's paintings. The composition is balanced by blooming flowers.
In 1872, Alma-Tadema made his paintings a system of identification by including an opus number under his signature and also assigning earlier painting numbers. He gave the number CCCCVIII of "My Sister Artje", which he drew in 1851, to opus I, which he prepared in the Coliseum two months before his death.
Alma-Tadema's works include: Heaven on Earth (1891), Unconscious Rivals (1893), Spring (1894), Colosseum (1896), and Baths of Caracalla (1899). An Audience in Agrippa (1876). Although Alma-Tadema's fame rests on his paintings set in Antiquity, he also painted portraits, landscapes, and watercolors, and did some engravings (although his paintings were done by others).