Finding Number (Click this to view full catalogue structure)ATLAdd
TitleLetters Additional of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema
Extent188 items
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DescriptionArtificial collection of letters and other papers of and relating to Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836-1912), painter and to members of his family, including his wife Lady Laura Theresa Alma-Tadema (1852-1909) painter and his daughters, Laurence (d 1940), author and Anna (d 1943)

The correspondence is predominately related to Lawrence Alma-Tadema's work which involved the arranging of sittings, the sale of his paintings and the practicalities relating to exhibitions. There are also many letters involving more personal affairs such as social events and private dinners. Letters are commonly written to other artists including Thomas Armstrong, 1887-1908, Mortimer Menpes, 1901-03, George Henry Boughton 1891-99, Walter Severn, 1899 and Theodore Blake Wirgman, 1884-1912. There are also eight letters to the professional model, Marion Tattershall, 1909-11; as well as arrangements for independent clients. The collection also includes a significant number of letters to Charles Deschamps, secretary of the Society of French Artists and a prominent art dealer. Most of the letters written by the women of the family, Laura, Anna or Laurence, refer to social engagements and were often directed towards the wives of the men with whom Lawrence Alma-Tadema corresponded.

There are a number of letters relating directly to named paintings including correspondence with Sir Samuel Montague about the loan of 'Whispering Noon' for an exhibition in 1906; to a Mr Hodson about the loan of Expectations' in 1890; and to Robert Hoe about 'Gallo Roman Ladies', 1871.

Most of the letters are written in English; but 21 of the letters from Lawrence Alma-Tadema are in French; there is also a note in French from the author, Camille Saint-Saens. Unless otherwise stated Lawrence Alma-Tadema signed his name as L. Alma Tadema.

The letters were largely on printed headed note paper, giving the address of where the letter was written from, and the majority from addresses lived in by Alma-Tadema and his family in London: Townshend House, North Gate, Regents Park date between c 1870 to 1885; and then 17 Grove End Road from 1885 to 1901, the house being re-numbered as 34 Grove End Road in late 1901 (letters sent between November 1901 and January 1902 were addressed '34 late, 17 Grove End Road'). These addresses have allowed an estimation of dating for undated letters.

Although a largely miscellaneous collection, these letters span more than 40 years of Alma Tadema's life and provide an interesting insight into his career and personal life.
NotesImage at Fonds level is from ATLAdd/56.
ArrangementThis collection is catalogued at item or file level and the individual documents are numbered in a single numerical sequence which reflects the order in which they were acquired.
Access ConditionsAccess to all registered researchers
Finding AidsA catalogue of this collection is available on the online archive catalogue. Click on the Finding Number to display the summary contents list of the catalogue and to view the full catalogue. A paper copy of this catalogue for items ATLAdd/1-169 is also available for consultation in Cadbury Research Library.
Access StatusOpen
Physical DescriptionFinding numbers ATLAdd/4-16 are no longer in use: these items were photocopies of letters, the originals of which are in the collection
Administrative HistoryLawrence Alma-Tadema [1836 - 1912) was born Laurens Tadema in Friesland, the Netherlands. Despite his families' aspirations for him to pursue a legal career, illness at the age of fifteen allowed him to dedicate his time to drawing and painting.

He was trained in Antwerp and came into contact with Baron Henri Ley (1815-1869), a painter of sixteenth century Flemish historical subjects and Louis de Taeye (1822-1890) a painter and professor of archaeology at the Antwerp Academy. Following his first marriage to Marie Pauline Gressin Dumoulin de Boisgirard in 1863, he visited Italy and, influenced by the archaeological remains he saw in Florence, Rome, Naples and Pompeii, he developed a life long interest in classical archaeology and architecture. He focused his work on historical genre subjects that showed anonymous Romans engaged in ordinary activities.

He began to acquire a reputation as a painter of historical subjects, particularly of Greek and Roman antiquity. In 1864, he secured a lucrative commission from the Belgian art dealer Ernest Gambart for twenty four pictures, and five years later received a second contract for another forty-eight. When his first work was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1869, he was well known in European and British art circles.

Alma-Tadema had two girls, Laurence and Anna (b 1869), and a boy who died soon after his birth with his wife Pauline. In 1870, a year after Pauline's death, the family moved to London where Alma-Tadema anglicized his forename to Lawrence. In 1871, he married his pupil Laura Epps [1852-1909] who became a painter in her own right. Neither of Alma-Tadema's daughters married, and after the death of their father in 1912 lived in obscurity. In the case of Anna, this was extremely unfortunate, as she had considerable talent in her own right and was known for painting exceptionally good watercolours.

When in London, Alma-Tadema secured election as an associated of the Royal Academy in 1876 and as academician only three years later. His fascination with Greek and Roman antiquity continued to the extent that during the 1890s he also played an important role in the visualization of the ancient world on the Victorian stage.

He was a very prolific painter, producing more than 400 paintings in his lifetime, and his pictures sold well. His success, popularity and wealth continued to grow and he regularly exhibited at the Royal Academy. He was knighted in 1899 and awarded the Order of Merit in 1905. He was also presented with the Royal Institute of British Architects Gold Medal in 1906, which was a rare honour for a painter and was given for his contribution to architectural studies. He was buried in St Paul's Cathedral in 1912.

Sources: Information comes from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography:
AcquisitionMost items in this collection have been acquired by purchase as a means of complementing and supporting the large photographic and drawings collection of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema. The collection also includes a number of gifts and deposits and photocopies of originals held elsewhere. For information about the provenance of specific items, please contact the Director of Special Collections for further details.
CopiesThe major part of this collection is available on microfiche. Facilities are available at the Cadbury Research Library: Special Collections for researchers to make paper copies of individual items from these microfiches for their own private research purposes.
Related MaterialThe Special Collections Department holds the photographic archive of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (which also includes drawings, prints and tracings). Reference: AT. Alma-Tadema started collecting photographs as early as 1863 and used them as studies for his paintings in order to achieve historical authenticity. This collection was transferred from the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1947 and comprises 164 portfolios and six albums of nineteenth-century photographs, containing about 5300 prints, together with some of his drawings and a few prints. The photographs cover a wide range of subjects, including architecture, classical landscapes, costumes, antiquities and animals.

In addition to the photographic archive we also hold a small collection of correspondence from Alma-Tadema to Sir George Henschel (purchased in 1954/55), about the Royal Academy and social affairs, 1877-1891.
Publication NoteThis collection, together with our other holdings of Alma-Tadema materials, were micropublished by IDC Publishers in 1998 as a microform collection with an accompanying guide

A major exhibition of Lawrence Alma-Tadema's works was shown at the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam and the Walker Art gallery in 1997. An exhibition catalogue, with accompanying essays, was published under the title 'Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema and a copy is available in Special Collections (rqND405.A5). This catalogue includes an essay about his collection of photographs


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