Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, the painter of "Victorians in togas", was one of the most
successful artists of the XIX century. He was internationally famous and so immensely
popular that scarcely a middle-class Victorian drawing room was without at least one print
of Alma-Tadema's painting. Yet a few years after his death he was all but forgotten.
Laurens (later he changed to the more English Lawrence) Tadema was born on 8
January 1836, in the small village of Dronrijp, which lies about 3 miles to the west of
Leeuwarden, Holland. He was the sixth child of Pieter Jiltes Tadema, a notary. It is
unclear when and why he affixed the name Alma to his last name, probably it was the
name of his godfather. His parents wanted him to become a lawyer and Laurens was enrolled at the
gymnasium of Leeuwarden. Although Laurens was a good student, he always wanted to be an artist and, with
great enthusiasm he tried to pursue both courses. This caused a significant decline of his health that his
doctors even predicted he would die shortly. His mother decided to allow him to spend his remaining days doing
what he enjoyed most, to paint. But happily after that he recovered completely. This marked the beginning of
a new period of his life.
In 1851, he went to Antwerp to study in the Antwerp Academy, where he was taught first by Gustave Wappers
and then by Nicaise de Keyser. He left the Academy in 1856 and continued to study art and also took up the
history of Germany, early France and Belgium under the guidance of Louis de Taye, the Professor of Archaeology
at the Academy of Antwerp. Faust and Marguerite (1857) was painted as a result of these studies.
In 1859 Alma-Tadema became a pupil of Henrik Leys, joining his studio in Antwerp.
In 1861, Tadema's picture The Education of the Children of Clovis (1868) was exhibited and became a
In 1862, Alma-Tadema left Leys's studio and started his own career. The period 1862-1870 is called his
Continental period, he established himself as a significant contemporary European artist. His main works were
of classical genre, dedicated to Ancient Egypt: An Egyptian Widow (1872) and Greek and Roman history: A Roman Family (1868), An Audience at Agrippa's (1876).
In 1870, Alma-Tadema moved to England, where he was to spend the rest of his life. He became one of the most famous and highly paid artists of his time, acknowledged and rewarded by the fellow artists as well as
by the governments of the European countries.
In 1879, he was elected as a full member of the Royal Academy of Arts and in 1899 was knighted by
Queen Victoria. Among his most famous works are An Apodyterium (1886), Spring (1894), The Coliseum (1896), The
Baths of Caracalla (1899), Silver Favourites (1903), The Finding of Moses (1904), A Favourite
Custom (1909).AlmaTadema died in 1912.