Alma-Tadema: At Home in Antiquity
7 July – 29 October 2017
Leighton House is the only UK venue for this internationally-touring show.
Lawrence Alma-Tadema was born in the Netherlands but obtained British denizenship (an obsolete process by which a foreigner could enjoy similar rights to a citizen without officially becoming one) after settling in England in 1870.
Arriving in London with his sister and two small daughters (his wife had recently died from smallpox), he felt sure the city would be a more advantageous location for him as an artist – not to mention the fact he had a growing infatuation with the young painter Laura Theresa Epps, whom he had met at Ford Maddox Brown's house on a visit the following year. The pair were married by 1871.
It was also a shrewd move for his career, just as he had hoped. Within months of arriving in the capital, he had met and befriended most of the major Pre-Raphaelite painters and, under their influence, brightened his palette and lightened his brushwork. He created two remarkable studio-houses in St John’s Wood where he could work together with his wife and later his daughter, Anna.
A classical-subject painter, Alma-Tadema's work featured languorous figures set against decadent backgrounds associated with the Roman Empire – for example, marble interiors or the dazzling blue Mediterranean sea and sky. He became fascinated with representing domestic scenes, capturing the public's imagination with his idea of what life back in ancient times would have ‘looked like’. Alma-Tadema soon became one of the most famous and highly paid artists of the time.
The exhibition traces the artist's career from his early training to success in London, featuring works by Lawrence, his wife and daughter. Leighton House provides an apt setting for the show, as it was well known to the Alma-Tademas, who frequently called by. Included is In My Studio, which Lawrence Alma-Tadema presented to Leighton as a token of friendship and which is on loan from a private collection.
Art Fund members can get free entry to the exhibition on 21 September and 26 October (from 5.30pm).