Lawrence Alma-Tadema was born on 8 January 1836 in the Netherlands and died in Wiesbaden in 1912. He was a representative of the Academic Realism and was very well-known for his paintings, which mainly represented the ancient world. The exhibition “Alma-Tadema: At Home in Antiquity” is taking place from July 7th until October 29th, 2017 in the Leighton House Museum in London. For the first time in 104 years, it is possible to admire more than 130 works by Alma-Tadema in one place. The name Alma-Tadema may not mean a lot to many people, but most of us have seen at least one of his paintings. He is one of the most prolific and skilled artists of his time and, even though we may not realize it, his works still have a major impact on contemporary media culture. Our conception of the ancient Roman world is impregnated by the representations of Lawrence Alma-Tadema. Even film directors such as George Lucas (Star Wars, Indiana Jones) or Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator) have been heavily inspired by Alma-Tadema. They have also implemented many of his ideas in their films. Many people believe that if he had experienced the invention of the film, he would have definitively become a director because his paintings testify, he has an incredible storytelling talent. Alma-Tadema was born at a time when new archaeological breakthroughs and discoveries happened every day. Therefore, he was, like many of his contemporaries, obsessed with learning and understanding the ancient world. This obsession even went so far that he spent the honeymoon with his wife, Pauline Gressin, measuring and sketching ancient temples.
His paintings are characterized by a strong realism and a tremendous love for details. Alma-Tadema’s method was quick and straightforward, which explains his productivity. He made only a few rough sketches before starting a new project and didn´t want to spend too much time painting single parts of the picture. The drawing was usually sketched with the brush directly on the canvas before the painting process began. He was said to be a perfectionist. Indeed, he sometimes scratched off an entire part of the painting he had been working on all day long to start it all over again.
Lawrence Alma-Tadema may be one of the most influential but least known artists of his time. If you have the chance, you should definitively visit the new exhibition in London.