Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836-1912) was one of the finest and most distinctive of the Victorian painters. Dutch-born, he moved to London in 1870, and became famous for his depictions of the luxury and decadence of the Roman Empire, set in fabulous marbled interiors or against a backdrop of dazzling blue Mediterranean sea and sky. In this original and penetrating study, Rosemary Barrow presents an absorbing and often amusing portrait of an exuberant personality who carved out a brilliant career for himself at the heart of London's artistic and cultural elite. Most uniquely, she subjects the paintings to a fresh scrutiny, to reveal that Alma-Tadema, a knowledgeable student of antiquity, repeatedly used literary and archaeological allusions in his paintings to subvert their apparently innocent meaning. Neglected after his death, Alma-Tadema's paintings are once again admired for their exquisite beauty and their remarkable mastery of light, colour and texture. With its fresh and intriguing new insights into his personality and intentions as well as his works, this book now provides a challenging reassessment of a major artist and fascinating person.
Part I 1836-70 - Youth, art training, early career: Holland, Belgium, Merovingian Gaul; Egypt; Pompeii; Greece and Rome. Part II Establishment and success: a Dutch painter in London; into the Academy; landscapes, portraits, watercolours; the artist at home. Part III Final honours and the end of a career: views of antiquity; the theatre; the final years; Alma-Tadema in retrospect.