British, 1836–1912

Lawrence Alma Tadema

Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema was a Dutch-born painter who showed a liking and aptitude for drawing at an early age. Sadly, his precarious health discouraged his parents from permitting his lessons, so it was not until he was 16 that he managed to go to Antwerp. He trained at the academy there under the guidance of Wappers, then Reyzer. However, he was expelled from the course as a result of a three-week absence, during which time he was working arduously on a commission for a picture. Around this period he became acquainted with the archaeology professor and practicing artist Louis de Taye. On his advice, Alma-Tadema dedicate himself to history painting, to which he owed his first success; the King of Belgium won the artist’s 1861 painting Education of Clotilde's Children and later hung it in the palace in Brussels. In any case, by 1859 he had started working under the tutelage of Baron Leys in Antwerp. In 1862, his painting of Venantius Fortunatus earned him his first gold medal in Amsterdam and contributed to his growing reputation.

In 1863 Alma-Tadema travelled to Italy where he became fascinated by the ruins of Pompeii. This visit marked a significant change in his style, and from then on he turned to the ancient world for imagery and inspiration. In 1864 he exhibited Pastimes in Ancient Egypt: 3000 Years Ago and won a gold medal for this work. In the same year his painting of Fredegonde and Bishop Pretextat, originally bought for the tombola at the Salon in Brussels, became a sensation famous in the Belgian capital that he decided in 1865 to leave Antwerp and settle in Brussels.

After his wife’s death, Alma-Tadema moved to London in 1870; he married his English pupil Lady Laura Epps in 1871 and became a British citizen in 1873.

Alma-Tadema was well-liked by his artistic peers and the English public for his fidelity to classical antiquity and eccentric character. Whistler once described Alma-Tadema’s unconventional historicist costume upon meeting him at a party, at which he wore a laurel wreath, toga, and iron-rimmed spectacles. From the 1860s, Alma-Tadema’s painting was very popular in England; his neoclassical works were admired among Victorian collectors and also appealed more broadly to the English masses. The British publication Punch called him a "marbellous artist" because of his skill at painting marble. All his work attempts archaeological accuracy, based on site drawings and his photographic archive (now archived at the University of Birmingham Library). The most distinctive element of his technique was the meticulous care with which he rendered the slightest details. “A painting is a combination of things and no detail should be omitted,” he stated. “Everything must harmonize, because everything is indispensable in terms of the impression the painter wishes to give. A painting worthy of the name must be something other than a good piece of painting.” Nevertheless, Alma-Tadema's critics called his works lewd and spiritually vacuous; this was probably due to the prevalence of nude figures included under the thinly veiled presumption of classical painting.

At the 1878 Exposition Universelle in Paris he was awarded a first-class medal, and was subsequently decorated with the Légion d'Honneur. Afterwards he rarely took part in the French Salons, reserving his best works for London. His public reputation as a portrait painter grew during the second half of his career, when he painted key figures such as Balfour, Paderewski, the Count of Bylandt, Louis Barnay, Hans Richter, George Hendschel and Mme. Adama van Scheltema. He also completed portraits of the sculptor George Simonds and his family, as well as of Mrs. Rowland Hill and her children.

In 1906 Alma-Tadema was awarded a gold medal by the Royal Institute of British Architects for the depictions of ancient architecture in his works. He became a Royal Academy member in 1879, received the Order of Merit in 1905, and was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1899. Alma-Tadema is buried in St. Paul's Cathedral in London.

Museum Collections:
Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums, Aberdeen, Scotland
Amgueddfa Cymru—National Museum Wales, Cardiff
Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford, Oxford
Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery, Birmingham
Brigham Young University Museum of Art, Provo, UT
Brighton and Hove Museums and Art Galleries, Brighton
Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, Bristol
British Museum, London
Clark Institute, Williamstown, MA
Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Dick Institute, Kilmarnock
Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery, Doncaster
Dordrechts Museum, Dordrecht
Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge, Cambridge
Fries Museum, Leeuwarden
Groniger Museum, Groningen
Guildhall Art Gallery, London
Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg
Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston
Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Dartmouth, Hanover, NH
J. Paul Getty Mus, Los Angeles, CA
Kelvigrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow
National Portrait Gallery, London
Lady Lever Art Gallery, Liverpool
Leighton House Museum, London
Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle-upon-Tyne
Maas Gallery, London
Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, WI
Musée d’Orsay, Paris
Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal, Montréal
Museo del Prado, Madrid
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
National Gallery of Canada, Ottowa
National Museum in Warsaw, Warsaw
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, London
Royal Academy of Music, London
Royal Collection Trust (UK), Buckingham Palace, London
Royal Institute of British Architects, London
Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum, Bournemouth
State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
Sudley House, Liverpool Museums, Liverpool
Taft Museum of Art, Cincinnati, OH
Tate Britain, London
Towneley Hall Art Gallery and Museum, Burnley
Towner Gallery, Eastbourne
University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor, MI
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, MD
William Morris Gallery, London
Williamson Art Gallery and Museum, Birkenhead
Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT
Zanesville Museum of Art, Zanesville, OH

Mark Murray Fine Paintings is a New York gallery specializing in buying and selling 19th century and early 20th century artwork.

Please contact us if you are interested in selling your Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema paintings or other artwork from the 19th century and early 20th century. 

Paintings for sale

Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema Paintings Previously Sold

SIR LAWRENCE ALMA-TADEMA    Santa Maria della Salute, Venice   Oil on canvas laid down on board 13¾ x 8½ inches (35 x 21.6 cm)  SOLD

Santa Maria della Salute, Venice
Oil on canvas laid down on board
13¾ x 8½ inches (35 x 21.6 cm)

SIR LAWRENCE ALMA-TADEMA    The Roman Architect   Oil on panel 11½ x 8¾ inches (29.2 x 22 cm)  SOLD

The Roman Architect
Oil on panel
11½ x 8¾ inches (29.2 x 22 cm)