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Lady Laura Alma-Tadema

Lady Laura Alma-Tadema (1852-1909) was the daughter of the late Dr George Epps and the sister of Mrs. Edmund Gosse [wife of English poet and critic, Mr Edmund Gosse], and of Mrs. Rowland Hill [wife of Mr Rowland Hill].

In 1871, Lady Alma-Tadema became the second wife of Laurence Alma-Tadema, who, after making a reputation in Antwerp and winning medals in Paris, had settled in London. Under his instruction his wife soon developed a remarkable artistic gift and already in the early eighties she was well-known as a contributor to the principal exhibitions. Her method and style had much in common with her husband's, but she wisely chose a different class of subject. Instead of Imperial Rome she gave us Dutch interiors, a little idealized and adorned; with pretty young mothers, with small children, often in dresses of the seventeenth century, placed in rooms with white walls and old oak furniture. Lady Alma-Tadema's treatment of light was extremely skilful, her colour exquisite, her textures subtly wrought, her effects charming. She generally sent one little picture to the Academy, and another to the New Gallery, where they always gave a great deal of pleasure.

Lady Alma-Tadema was a gracious hostess, and her parties, both in the old house facing Regents Park, and in that, to which she and her husband subsequently moved in the Grove-End Road, were amongst the most agreeable in London. In the fine studio planned for music as much as painting, all those great performers were delighted to play to a well-chosen audience of friends, who now look back with a melancholy pleasure to evenings when [Joseph] Joachim, [Pablo de] Sarasate, Mr [Igance Jan] Paderewski, Mr [Leonard] Borwick and other musicians of equal rank gave them of their best. The delightful personality of the mistress of the house completed the charm of these evenings. We are but giving voice to the feelings of all who used to frequent them when we offer Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema an expression of our deepest sympathy in his great loss.

A correspondent writes; "Lady Alma-Tadema spent the months of June and July in a German cure, from which she returned a few days ago in a very weak state. She was advised to leave town immediately, and she entered an establishment in Hindhead. Here her malady suddenly took a critical turn on Friday last and she passed away painlessly after an unconsciousness of many hours on the night of Sunday."

"From childhood Lady Alma-Tadema and her sisters were accustomed to the arts, and the cultivation of which was encouraged in them by the close association of their family with the group which circled around the Rossetti's and Madox Brown. But it is remarkable that Laura who was to become particularly famous for her pencil started alone as a musician. It was thought that she would show some originality as a composer, and she was being trained in music when she became acquainted with Mr Alma-Tadema, almost immediately after his arrival in London from Antwerp. He was a widower and Miss Laura Epps became his second wife in 187l. She began at once to study painting under her husband, and developed a notable technique for the rendering or textures and surfaces. Her early works were simply still-life studies, somewhat heavy and labored at first, but always careful and effective. In 1873 she began to be, as she has remained for 36 years an almost regular contributor at the Royal Academy. In Her Mamma's Chair of that year there was already shown an individuality which became more marked in her Birds Cage of 1875 and A Blue Stocking of 1877. On these canvasses the influence of her husband was apparent, but already there was a manifest leaning to purely Dutch methods of the seventeenth century which differentiated her from him.

No living Englishwoman, it is probable, has received so many tributes to her genius in painting as flowed in during late years on Lady Alma-Tadema, but particularly from France and Germany. She was a constant exhibitor at the Salon, and received many honors from Berlin, which culminated in her being awarded the gold medal of the German government in 1896, when one her best pictures was bought by the Emperor for the collection of the Empress. Although she had been in full professional creativity for 35 years, her signed works are less than 100 in number. Lady Alma-Tadema was of a remarkable beauty of face and figure, the charm of which is preserved in several other husbands' pictures, in a graceful seated statuette by Amendola in 1879, by a bust by Dalou in 1876, and a portrait by Bastien-Lepage.

Biography courtesy of Roughton Galleries, www.antiquesandfineart.com/roughton

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