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A COLLECTION OF WORKS BY SIR LAWRENCE ALMA-TADEMA, O.M., R.A. (British, 1836-1912)
The Dutch-born Lourens Alma Tadema came to the profession of painting in a strikingly determined way. His father had decreed that he was to become a barrister. Unable to combine an academic life devoted to the Law together with a passion for the Arts the young Lourens Tadema fell ill, both physically and mentally. Since his attending physicians had given up all hope of a recovery, the artist-to-be was allowed to do as he wished. He devoted all his energy to painting, which is said to have instigated a recovery. From that moment on his family allowed him to pursue a career as an artist.
Lourens Alma Tadema came under the tutelage of two influential Belgian artists: Louis de Taeye (1822-1891) and Baron Henri Leys (1815-1869). During his apprenticeship with the history painter Leys he worked on a series of frescoes in the Antwerp Town Hall in 1860. This further augmented his wish to bring to life a meticulously researched vision of the past, rendered in careful detail. His tutor enhanced his strive for perfection by famously suggesting that he paint a table leg 'you could bark your shins on!' (see: E. Becker et al., Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Zwolle 1996).
In 1863 Alma-Tadema had opportunity to visit Italy on honeymoon with his first wife Pauline. There he witnessed the result of the excavations at Pompeii and Herculaneum. His attention shifted from medieval Flemish history to classical antiquity. He and his wife had relocated to Brussels in 1865. Following the unfortunate death of his wife in 1870, the artist moved to London. There he remarried Laura Epps in 1871 and was naturalised as a British citizen taking on the name Lawrence Alma-Tadema. He was knighted in 1899.
Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema's interest in archaeology and classical architecture played a profound role in the oeuvre of the artist. He had an extensive collection of photographs depicting the remnants of the classical civilisations, some even with contemporary figures dressed as ancient Romans. The sweeping vista over a blue sea often depicted in his work is linked not only to his 'on site' experience during his honeymoon, but also his collection of photographs. The background in lot 136 is a good example of this.