mercoledì 10 settembre 2008

10 septiembre
Lawrence Alma-Tadema
Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836-1912)
Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema was a Dutch ex-patriate who lived most of his life in England. His name had been Lorens Tadema and Alma had been his middle name in Holland. His life followed a path similar to that of Victorian England. He was born a year before Victoria in 1836 and was knighted on her 80th birthday. Tadema was arguably the most successful painter of the Victorian era. For over sixty years he gave his audience exactly what it wanted; distinctive, elaborate paintings of beautiful people in classical settings. His incredibly detailed reconstructions of ancient Rome, with languid men and women posed against white marble in dazzling sunlight provided his audience with a glimpse of a world of the kind they might one day construct for themselves at least in attitude if not in detail. During his sixty productive years Tadema produced over 400 known paintings and had some success designing musical instruments as well. In 1980 a piano he designed for Henry Marquand of New York made 177,273 pounds at auction, making it to date not only the most expensive such musical instrument ever sold, but also the most costly example of 19th-century applied art).
Being a creature of his time, when the Victorian period ended so did his marketability. Paintings which once would have sold for 10,000 pounds a few years earlier were practically impossible to sell at all. In fact, some of his paintings could have been had for as little as 20 pounds at that time. His friendships with the Prince of Wales and the young Winston Churchill faded and his artistic legacy almost vanished. As attitudes of the public in general and the artists in particular changed for the worse regarding the possibilities of human achievement, his paintings were increasingly denounced. He was declared "the worst painter of the 19th century" by John Ruskin, and one critic even remarked that his paintings were "about worthy enough to adorn bourbon boxes". After this brief period of actively being denounced he was consigned to relative obscurity for many years. It was not until 1973 that a biography of Alma-Tadema was printed (by Russell Ash), and not until 1990 that a full color book containing large prints of his paintings was published (ISBN 0-8109-1898-6, Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Russell Ash, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 100 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10011).
One seldom noticed influence Tadema has had on modern art is the vision of the ancient world portrayed in such films as D. W. Griffith's Intolerance (1916), Ben Hur (1926), and Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments (1956), and Cleopatra (1934). Jessie J. Laskey, co-writer on De Mille's The Ten Commandments has described how the producer would customarily spread out prints of Alma-Tadema paintings to indicate to his set designers the look he wanted to achieve.

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