Exhibition Alma-Tadema

Coign of vantage, 1895
The young Lourens Tadema was born in 1836 in a little village in Frieland (Frisia) in the north of the Netherlands.

He had a lot of artistic talent and went to the art academy in Antwerp when he was sixteen. Here he began painting historical pieces, mostly tableaus from the early Middle Ages.

When he grew older, his fame spread and many people commissioned a painting by him. He married in 1863, and the young couple went to Italy on their honeymoon. Here Tadema was inspired by the archaeological finds of the classical period, and he began painting Roman historical pieces. He stuck to this until his death in 1912.

His wife died in 1869, and Tadema went to London with his two little daughters. He married again in 1871 with Laura, who also painted and their home became an artistic hotspot.

He changed his name to Lawrence Alma-Tadema and became the leader of the artmovement in England at that time.

After WWI his paintings were not appreciated anymore by the new generation of artists, but since the sixties we see the beauty of his works again.

Paiting the classics
What makes his paintings so special? He gives you a glimpse of Roman life and paints like you are actually in the painting, by the clever use of perspective. 

The atmosphere of his paintings is almost poetic and dream-like, existing outside time and he depicts people in normal day-to day activities, like feeding the fishes or reading a bookscroll.  
Unconscious rivals
He is a master at painting different materials, and you can see the difference between the silk, the velvet, the marble, the silver.

He had a huge collection of ancient artefacts and books and pictures, so he could make his paintings as historically correct as possible.

At first sight his paintings may seem a bit cheesy, but if you stand in front of them, you can see how breathtakingly beautiful they are.

In the Fries museum in Leeuwarden (Frisian museum), they now have a beautiful exhibition with more than 80 paintings by Alma-Tadema, and also examples of the props and furniture he owned and that can be seen in his paintings.
Love's missile, 1909
The exhibition focusses on the way Alma-Tadema influenced our idea of the ancient Roman history. We imagine ancient Rome to be like we see in his paintings.

This is also because filmmakers, from Quo Vadis in 1913 to Gladiator in 2000, used his paintings as inspiration for costumes, furniture, the rooms etc.

In the exhibition they show paintings and images from the movies and then it becomes very clear how much the movies were influenced by him.

I did not know Alma-Tadema and his work very well, but last Wednesday I visited the exhibition with a friend and it was amazing. I absolutely loved the paintings; the details, the historical correctness and the beautiful atmosphere.

If you have the chance to see work by Alma-Tadema or if you have the chance to go to Leeuwarden, do not miss it, because his work is beautiful.
The roses of Heliogabalus, 1888
The exhibition in Leeuwarden can be seen until February 7th 2017.


  1. I love these paintings. I've been aware of Alma-Tadema, but have only seen a few of his works. You make me want to see more! :)

    1. There is one solution to this, Lark, you must visit The Netherlands between now and February 17th to visit this exhibition for yourself (and I will go with you :-))

      Of course this is not possible (I wish it were), but if you have the chance to see his paintings in another museum, please do, I think you will find them as beatiful as I did!

      Kind regards,

    2. Oh how I would love to travel to The Netherlands again...even if it were only for this art exhibit! It would be so much fun. But I'll have to content myself with your fun art posts. :) And hope for a traveling exhibit near me.

    3. Well, I'll do my best to keep you happy with art and exhibition posts :-)
      And I do hope there will be an exhibition with Alma-Tadema works near you soon!

      Kind regards,


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