Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Lawrence Alma-Tadema - a couple of books

Lawrence Alma-Tadema
by Edward Swinglehurst
Grange Books Ltd (2001)

Lawrence Alma-Tadema
by Rosemary Barrow
Phaidon Press Ltd (2003)

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 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. But above all she subjects the paintings to a fresh scrutiny, and reveals that Alma-Tadema, a knowledgeable student of antiquity, repeatedly used literary and archaeological allusions in his paintings to play a game of interpretation with his viewers. Time and again the seeming innocence of the scenes he depicts is subverted by a mischievously placed inscription or statue, suggesting to the initiated a darker and usually risque meaning. Neglected after his death, Alma-Tadema's paintings are once again admired for their beauty and their remarkable mastery of light, colour and texture.
With its intriguing insights into his personality and intentions, this book should provide a challenging reassessment of a major artist.

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