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Exhibitions: Huon Mallalieu takes a look at Alma-Tadema: At home in Antiquity and Constable and Brighton

Arts | By Huon Mallalileu | September Issue

Some years ago, I wrote that, for all the accurate incident and detail packed into them, Alma-Tadema’s paintings lacked life. This exhibition shows that I was very wrong. He may have become the father of the epic film set but, in his Roman reconstructions, there can be as much vivacity and emotion as in any toga-saga. Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema RA, né Lourens Alma Tadema (1836-1912), rose from comparative poverty in provincial Friesland to creating opulent London palaces for himself on the scale of that of his friend Frederic Leighton. With the coming of the 20th century, his vogue was past. Despite their immense influence in Hollywood, his paintings came to be derided by all who purported to know about Art. Time has had his revolution, however, and anyone who bought a Tadema in the 1950s is much to be envied. The setting could not be more appropriate, much better than...

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