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26 June, 2013

Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema
Biography



"In order to define Art in connection with Industry I think it will be best to begin by trying to find out what Art is, and what is Industry. Art is as yet an unexplained expression of the human mind. Many lofty ęsthetic explanations have been given of it, but none has been quite satisfactory to my mind ... I know it is all a question of sentiment, and I know also how impossible it is to give an adequate description of a sentiment, so that I will not try to define it more precisely for fear of losing myself altogether."

Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, born in the Netherlands, settled in England in 1869. He is the archetypal Classicist painter. He was a member of London's high society and his circle of friends included both the young Winston Churchill and the Prince of Wales. One of the most successful painters of the Victorian era, he produced over 400 paintings during his 60 year career.

After a visit to Pompei Alma-Tadema painted mostly domestic scenes of ancient Greece and Rome. He was criticised because his paintings were without complicated themes or moral lessons, but the critics and the public alike were in awe of his accurate archaeological detail. Alma-Tadema is especially known for his exquisite renderings of marble, silk, and precious metals.

He died in 1912, and was buried in the crypt of St Paul's Cathedral. Some of his many followers include John W Waterhouse, John Collier, and John W Godward. As the Victorian era ended, his work was denounced and his paintings became impossible to sell. After his death he fell into relative obscurity for many years.

"Who knows him well he best can tell
That a stouter friend hath no man
Than this lusty knight, who for our delight
Hath painted Greek and Roman.
Then here let every citizen,
Who holds a brush or wields a pen,
Drink deep as his Zuyder Zee
To Alma-Tad-
Of the Royal Acad-
Of the Royal Academee"

--song to celebrate the painter's knighthood in 1889. 

contributed by Gifford, Katya

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