Friday, May 20, 2011

Alma-Tadema's New Springtime

Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836-1912) is shaping up to be the new Andy Warhol.

That's so if you consider recent auction results. Last November his "The Finding of Moses" sold for $35,922,500 and more recently "The Meeting of Antony and Cleopatra: 41 B.C." went for $29,22,500. Not bad for a once-forgotten artist whose paintings were selling for hundreds 50 or 60 years ago.

The Finding of Moses - 1904

The Meeting of Antony and Cleopatra: 41 B.C. - 1885

The link above is to a lengthy Wikipedia entry. Plus there are books about Tadema, so I won't dwell on his career other than to mention that he combined great talent, research skills and a not-dour personality to reach great popularity in his lifetime -- a popularity that has been re-emerging since the 1960s.

One popular painting that's accessible to many Americans is "Spring" -- a star of the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. It's large (80 x 179.1 cm / 31.5 in. x 5 ft. 10.5 in.) containing a jumble of figures whose faces (if memory serves) are only about two or three cm. high.

To celebrate Tadema's newfound stature, below is Spring along with a few detail photos I took a while ago. You can try clicking to enlarge them, but the results will be somewhat fuzzy because those enlargements are much bigger than the original art. All the images pictured here can be enlarged.


Spring - 1894

A slightly closer version of the preceding detail.


David Apatoff said...

Don, is your "Andy Warhol" comparison purely an economic one, or are you also factoring in an editorial comment about the quality of the art in relation to its spiraling cost?

Donald Pittenger said...

David -- It was strictly a whimsical lead-in. My "hook" was that, finally, Victorian-era art is commanding really high auction prices.

Left fairly implicit is the thought that this might be marking a sort of cultural tipping point. One $30-ish million for a Tadema might be a curiosity -- but TWICE?

As for quality of their art, I've always considered Warhol as a canny self-promoter whose work is questionable as art -- a Duchamp who (unlike the original) cashed in.

Tadema was a skilled painter whose works are generally interesting to view, though $30 mil does seem high. I like them, but not as well as I do contemporaries such as Burne-Jones and Waterhouse. (Hmm. Wonder what their next few auction results will be.)