International Exhibition - Alma-Tadema: At Home in Antiquity (2016-17)

Museum of Friesland, Leeuwarden, Holland (1 October 2016 - 7 February 2017) // Belvedere, Vienna (23 February -18 June 2017) // Leighton House Museum, London (7 July - 29 October 2017)

In October 2017, the acclaimed exhibition Alma-Tadema: At Home in Antiquity completed the third and final leg of its international tour at Leighton House Museum in London, the city where artist Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836–1912) enjoyed his greatest success. Before showing in London from 7 July to 29 October 2017, the exhibition opened with the title Alma-Tadema: Classical Charm  at the Museum of Friesland (Fries Museum) in Leeuwarden, Holland, where Alma-Tadema was born (1 October 2016 to 7 February 2017); and it transferred from there to the prestigious Belvedere in Vienna as Lawrence Alma-Tadema: Decadence & Antiquity (23 February to 18 June 2017).

Alma-Tadema: At Home in Antiquity - exhibition poster - Leighton House Museum

Exhibition poster: Leighton House Museum

Alma-Tadema exhibition: Fries Museum, Holland; Belvedere, Vienna; Leighton-House

Clockwise from top: Museum of Friesland, Leeuwarden, Holland (Photo: Ruben van Vliet); South Façade, Upper Belvedere, Vienna; The Staircase, Leighton House Museum, London (Photo: Will Pryce)

Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Self-Portrait of Lourens Alma Tadema, 1852, oil on canvas, Collection Museum of Friesland, Leeuwarden Photo © Martin Rijpstra

Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Self-Portrait of Lourens Alma Tadema, 1852, oil on canvas, 58.5 x 48.5 cm; 76.5 x 68.5 cm (frame), Collection Museum of Friesland, Leeuwarden – Collection Royal Frisian Society, Bequest of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1912 - conservation of frame supported by the Wassenbergh-Clarijs-Fontein Foundation, 2015 (Photo © Martin Rijpstra)

Alma-Tadema exhibition

The exhibition was co-curated by Professor Elizabeth Prettejohn (University of York); Dr Peter Trippi, a New York-based specialist in 19th-century European paintings; and film expert Dr. Ivo Blom (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam), working alongside curators from the Museum of Friesland, Frank van der Velden, Marlies Stoter and Stijn ten Hoeve; from the Belvedere; and senior curator Daniel Robbins from Leighton House Museum. Dr Blom wrote about the research project and exhibition on his personal blog and for Art Quarterly (Summer 2017).

This was the largest exhibition devoted to the work of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema in the last 100 years, with over 200 objects.  These included more than 80 of Alma-Tadema’s paintings and dozens of drawings, prints and objects from his studio, as well as 17 artworks created by his gifted wife Laura and daughter Anna.  The exhibition is a logistical feat, bringing together loans from more then 50 collections from across the world.

The Museum of Friesland holds the largest collection of Alma-Tadema’s work in the Netherlands, including donations from Alma-Tadema himself and his daughters. Among the paintings exhibited was the Museum’s recently acquired Entrance to the Theatre, previously in the private collection of William H. Vanderbilt and considered to be one of Alma-Tadema’s most important works.

Also included in the exhibition was Alma-Tadema’s portrait of his friend and engraver Leopold Löwenstam.  The painting had caused a sensation when it was ‘refound’ on the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow in 2016, and it was one of the subjects of the 2016 Antiques Roadshow Christmas Special, in which Professor Prettejohn participated, talking about the painting.

An important strand of the exhibition was Alma-Tadema's influence on film-makers from the early twentieth-century through to contemporary cinema, such as Ridley Scott's Gladiator. The exhibition set paintings alongside silent films from the Desmet Collection of EYE: Quo vadis? (Enrico Guazzoni, 1912, Cines); Cajus Julius Caesar (Enrico Guazzoni, 1914, Cines); L'orgie romaine (Louis Feuillade, 1911, Gaumont); The Sign of the Cross (Frederick A. Thomson, 1914, Famous Players); and Le fils de Locuste (Louis Feuillade, 1911, Gaumont). This was the area of exploration for the third day of the wide-ranging 'Alma-Tadema: Antiquity at Home and on Screen' symposium held in October 2017.

Zaaloverzichten Tadema - Fries Museum - Photo Ruben van Vliet

Alma-Tadema: Classical Charm, Fries Museum (Photo (detail) ©Ruben van Vliet)

A publication accompanies the exhibition, available in English (Lawrence Alma-Tadema: At Home in Antiquity), Dutch (Alma-Tadema: Klassieke verleiding) and German (Lawrence Alma-Tadema. Klassische Verführung).

Alma-Tadema, The Finding of Moses, 1904, Private collection (Photo courtesy Christie’s)

Lawrence Alma-Tadema, The Finding of Moses, 1904, Opus CCCLXXVII, Oil on canvas, 137.7 × 213.4 cm, Private collection (Photo: courtesy Christie’s)

Alma-Tadema: Classical Charm received rave reviews internationally, including:

In English: The Guardian (‘epic’); The Huffington Post (‘dazzling’); The Financial Times ('unmissable') The Telegraph ('An evocative reappraisal of a Victorian great', 'poignant'); Forbes; The Frame Blog; Studio International ('capacious', 'an expansive survey'); Apollo ('an impressive undertaking','a bold exhibition'); the TLS ('absorbing and deeply pleasurable'); The Times; 19th-Century Art Worldwide (Vol. 16, Issue 1, Spring 2017); Digital Building Heritage Group ('prompts genuinely provocative questions about the role of art as a mirror to political and social ideals'); The Daily Mail; The Victorian Web ('wonderful', 'have paved the way for new conversations about modern masters who used ancient languages'); ArtDailyPendulum Mag ('Don't miss'); Scribe DiemLiz of Shalott; Enough of this Tomfoolery!Plastic Bag.

Austria: Der Neue Merker ('Die Ausstellung [...] lässt keinen Zweifel an der Sinnhaftigkeit des Unternehmens.' [The exhibition leaves no doubt as to its significance.]); Der Standard; ViennaArt.

France: Le Salon Littérairel'Express ('mérite le déplacement. Elle est magnifique.' [worth the journey. It is superb.]).

Germany: RheinischeArt; Bild.

Italy: La Stampa, ANSA, Avvenire, ArtribuneFries Museum ('di grande impatto storico e visivo' [of great historical and visual impact]) and Belvedere ('È immersa in un’atmosfera non casuale di estetismo e di misurata sensualità la grande mostra ' [This great exhibition is deliberately steeped in an atmosphere of aestheticism and restrained sensuality]); Doppiozero ('una strepitosa avventura […] in un perfetto dispositivo' [an extraordinary adventure ... perfectly devised (by the curators)]).

Russia: Artchive Russe.

 

Read more about the exhibition on the Museum of Friesland’s website and watch the museum’s video showing the influence of Alma-Tadema’s paintings on Hollywood directors:

Read interviews with the curators: Professor Prettejohn and Dr Trippi (in English); and Dr Blom, Marlies Stoter and Frank van der Velden (in Dutch) – they all share their highlights and favourite parts of the exhibition.

Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Entrance of the Theatre (also known as Entrance to a Roman Theatre), 1866, Collection Fries Museum, Leeuwarden Photo © Martin Rijpstra

Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Entrance of the Theatre (also known as Entrance to a Roman Theatre), 1866, oil on canvas, 67.4 x 96.0 cm; 109.5 x 138.0 cm (frame), Collection Fries Museum, Leeuwarden – acquisition supported by the Rembrandt Foundation (in part through its Saskia Fund and its Van Rijn Fund), the BankGiro Lottery, the Mondriaan Fund, the Wassenbergh-Clarijs-Fontein Foundation and the Friends of the Museum of Friesland (Photo © Martin Rijpstra)

Alma-Tadema:Classical Charm - exhibiton views, Fries Museum

Exhibition views, Fries Museum, Leeuwarden (Photos ©Ruben van Vliet)

Alma-Tadema: exhibition view, Fries Museum (Photo ©Ruben van Vliet)

Exhibition view: Fries Museum, Leeuwarden (Photo ©Ruben van Vliet)

Alma-Tadema: exhibition view, Fries Museum (Photo ©Ruben van Vliet)

 

Lawrence Alma-Tadema – Decadence & Antiquity (Photo: © Belvedere, Vienna, 2017)

Exhibition views: Belvedere, Vienna (Photo: © Belvedere, Vienna, 2017)

Alma-Tadema – Decadence & Antiquity, Belvedere Photo: © Belvedere, Vienna, 2017

Exhibition view: Belvedere, Vienna (Photo: © Belvedere, Vienna, 2017)

Alma-Tadema – Decadence & Antiquity, Belvedere. Photo: © Belvedere, Vienna, 2017

Exhibition view: Belvedere, Vienna (Photo: © Belvedere, Vienna, 2017)

Alma-Tadema - Decadence & Antiquity, Belvedere. Photo: © Belvedere, Vienna, 2017

Exhibition view: Belvedere, Vienna (Photo: © Belvedere, Vienna, 2017)

Alma-Tadema: At Home in Antiquity - Leighton House Museum (Photo ©Kevin Moran)

Exhibition view: Upper Perrin Gallery, Leighton House Museum (Photo ©Kevin Moran Photography)

Alma-Tadema, The Roman Potters in Britain (Hadrian in England), 1884; The Hague

Lawrence Alma-Tadema, The Roman Potters in Britain (Hadrian in England), 1884; Opus CCLXI (Section A) Oil on canvas 76.2 × 119.4 cm; Koninklijke Verzamelingen (Royal Collections), The Hague

Alma-Tadema, The Roses of Heliogabalus Colección Pérez Simón Photo © A. Piera

Lawrence Alma-Tadema, The Roses of Heliogabalus, 1888, oil on canvas, 132,7 x 214,4 cm; Colección Pérez Simón, Mexico (Photo: ©Arturo Piera)

Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Interior of the Church of San Clemente, Rome, 1863, Collection Museum of Friesland, Leeuwarden. Photo © Martin Rijpstra

Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Interior of the Church of San Clemente, Rome, 1863, oil on canvas (unfinished), 63.5 x 51.0 cm, Collection Museum of Friesland, Leeuwarden – Collection Royal Frisian Society, gift of Laurence Alma-Tadema, 1935 - conservation of frame supported by the Wassenbergh-Clarijs-Fontein Foundation, 2015 (Photo ©Martin Rijpstra)

Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Unconscious Rivals, 1893, Bristol Museums & Art Gallery, Bristol

Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Unconscious Rivals, 1893, oil on canvas, 45.1 x 62.8 cm, 74.5 x 92.6 x 7.4 cm (frame), Bristol Museums & Art Gallery, Bristol

[Published 15 November 2016; updated 21 March 2017; updated 22 January 2018]

Main image: Exhibition banner showing Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Coign of Vantage (detail), 1895, oil on canvas, 58.88 x 44.45 cm, Collection of Ann and Gordon Getty

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