Friday, 27 February 2015

'A Favourite Custom' by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema

As part of my 2015 quest to find as many paintings as possible by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema I ventured along to the Tate Britain this afternoon to see 'A Favourite Custom'.  The custom in question is the ladies bath in Pompeii. The painting is in the 1890s room at Tate Britain despite it being completed in 1909.

It's quite typical of Alma-Tadema's works with it's incredible attention to detail as well as the wonderful feeling of atmosphere, all light and airy. If you look closely you can see slight cracks in the tiles and repairs to the steps.The two ladies in the front of the paintings are supported by others further back in the baths changing clothes and others coming in from the bright sunshine in the street.

It's that detail and light that makes me look again at Alma-Tadema's paintings. He visited ancient sites like Pompeii to draw the ruins and study the buildings so he could accurately include them in his paintings.

Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema was born in 1836 and died in 1912. Vincent Van Gogh was born, pushed his art as far as his vision allowed and died within Alma-Tadema's lifetime. Isn't that a strange thing to think? Van Gogh created his amazing paintings while Alma-Tadema still painted his scenes of ancient Rome in a traditional style. There's more than enough room for both styles of paintings and so many more.

Alma-Tadema painted his exotic scenes in London while 50 miles or so away Stanley Spencer was painting like this in 1909, his 'Those Couple Things'. And further away a young artist called Picasso was painting 'Woman and Pears' in 1909.

How different and how wonderful that we see all these styles being developed in the same year. 1909.

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