Sir Lawrence Almer Tadema (1836-1912)

The Dutch painter who was born in Dronrip studied art at the Royal Academy of Antwerp, Belgium before he settled in England in 1870. During his lifetime he was famous as a classical painter depicting the luxury and decadence of the Roman Empire. Many of his figures are set against the backdrop of wonderful marble interiors or outside in front of the dazzling blue Mediterranean sea and sky.

He was greatly admired during his lifetime but following his death on 25th June 1912 his works fell out of favour and it was not until the 1960s Sir Lawrence was recognized for his important contribution to nineteenth century English art and his work is now back in favour again.

He had a complicated family upbringing because he was the sixth child of the village notary Pieter Jiltes Tadema and the third child of his mother Hinke Dirks Browser who was the half-sister of his father's first wife.

It was only by chance he became a painter at all as he was destined to become a lawyer but when he was fifteen years old he suffered a severe mental and physical breakdown and was given a short time to live. He was allowed to spend what was thought to be his final days drawing and painting and when he recovered he joined the Royal Academy of Antwerp in 1852 to study early Dutch and Flemish Art. His obvious talent shone through and he won several awards for his work.

It was the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in July 1870 that made him decide to leave the continent and move to London where he soon became one of the most famous and highly-paid painters in England. His reward was being knighted for his great contribution to art.

He was married twice, the first time in Paris and when his second wife Laura died on 15th August 1909 he was grief stricken. In 1912 he developed an ulcerated stomach and he died in Germany on 28th June where he was due to undergo an operation. Sir Lawrence Almer Tadema is buried in the crypt of St Paul's Cathedral in London. 

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