Biography of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, by Vern Grosvenor Swanson, Ph.D. Page 10
Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema
by Vern Grosvenor Swanson, Ph.D. 1994
Chapter 10: Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1898-1912)
Lawrence Alma-Tadema The baths of Caracalla
lma-Tadema's single contribution to the Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition in 1898 was considered to be a masterpiece. The conversion of Paula by St Jerome (No 387, 1898) was completed upon his return from a visit to Cannes and it received notices for its technical excellence, beauty and effect. F.G. Stephens, who had lavished so much praise on The Coliseum (No 374, 1896) now considered the Conversion to be superior. Arthur Tooth & Sons, who commissioned it before the completion of The Coliseum now had another major success. According to Alma-Tadema's letter to Stephens, the picture was not finished without difficulty and he was doubly pleased with the accolades it received.161
Paula is depicted reclining on an altar dedicated to Bacchus, dressed in a gown of purple and dark-amber tissue woven with gold. She listens to the debonair but ascetic Jerome who is giving her lessons in Christianity. Afterwards Paula left the Bacchic cult and followed the new religion. The work represents one of Alma-Tadema's rare Christian subject pieces. Ten years previously he had been criticized for the lack of 'moral purpose' in The roses of Heliogabalus (No 321, 1888).
He finished three oils before May 1899. A Listener (No 391, 1899) was painted for a charity, the Netherlands Benevolent Society of Amsterdam and was sold at Christie's for nearly £800. The Portrait of Mrs George Lewis and her daughter Elizabeth (No 390, 1899) was Alma-Tadema's only contribution to the New Gallery. The important Baths of Caracalla (No 392, 1899, see illustration p.148), and the Portrait of Mrs Marcus Stone (No 372, 1895) were his entries for the Royal Academy.
The Baths of Caracalla was a chef d'oeuvre and at 60 x 37 1/2" (152.5 x 95 cm) large by Tadema standards. It was commissioned by Arthur Tooth & Sons, who were fairly active during this period in marketing Alma-Tadema's major work. The picture was an instant success. A reviewer for The Times assured the Academy's visitors that this dazzling 'jewel-like' work was archaeologically most correct.162 When Alma-Tadema was asked two years later which of all his paintings he liked best, he replied:
It does seem to me that The Baths of Caracalla does show the different sides of my art, does exhibit its best qualities at their best... The picture, like much of my recent work is a picture of ancient Rome as it was and for this work of reconstruction I have had to get my information mainly from archaeological drawings. I was occupied with the picture for two years, and when it came back to my studio from the Academy I found that it wanted some altering and I worked at it again for some time with help of pencil drawings and models.163
It appears that during the 1890s Alma-Tadema's plan was to produce at least one major picture a year for the Academy. His production fell from an average of six or seven pictures a year to about four or five from 1898 until his death in 1912. Although continuing to produce extraordinarily beautiful pictures, the period of his prolific output was drawing to a close. He himself said, 'When at my time of life, the time has come to live in memory of the past.'164 A slight tinge of melancholia now began to affect his work to the advantage of his art.
In 1899 a knighthood was bestowed on Alma-Tadema. He was the eighth artist from the continent to be so honoured, and the first for over a century. It was felt that something should be done to celebrate his knighthood. The planned celebration banquet in the Whitehall Rooms of Hotel Metropole was postponed because of Laura's illness until November 4th. Sir Edward Poynter was unable to preside as he was travelling in Europe, and the Master of Ceremonies for the evening was Alma-Tadema's friend, the sculptor Edward Onslow Ford. The guest list of about 180 men included almost every important late-nineteenth-century Victorian artist.
Onslow Ford reminded the guests that 'nationality in the world of art counts for very little', but that merit was the supreme consideration of the Queen when bestowing this honour. Alma-Tadema replied with an emotional speech, saying that his studies in English art had resulted in a greater understanding of beauty. He was proud to think that English and Dutch nationalists had laboured in the same field having such influence on one another.165
Lawrence Alma-Tadema Vain courtship
In February 1900 Alma-Tadema completed A flag of truce (No 395, 1900) as a contribution towards the humanitarian part of the Boer War. The title and subject are against the hostilities of war, and the picture was painted for the Artists' War Fund to benefit those who were widowed or injured. The pacifist Alma-Tadema family did much for the fund's success by working on an exhibition of art by prominent English artists. Miss Laurense catalogued the works, whilst the rest of the family contributed to the total of 330 works of art which were subsequently auctioned for the fund by Christie's, raising over £12,000.
At the beginning of the year Alma-Tadema helped to organize the British Section of the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris. He exhibited two oils, The kiss (No 351, 1891) and Spring (No 363, 1894) which were praised by the critics, and heard in August that he had been awarded the Grand Prix Diploma. Laura received a silver medal at the same exhibition for Satisfaction (1893).
Alma-Tadema's only Royal Academy entry was the smaller version of Goldfish (No 396, 1900). The reason for a single minor entry into the Summer Exhibition was no doubt Alma-Tadema's journey to Italy between late March and late April. He planned the visit in order to research the Etruscan ruins for the play Coriolanus, which Sir Henry Irving had decided to resuscitate after a hiatus of some twenty years. Anna joined her father in Rome after a short visit to Florence, and they returned to London together.166
Alma-Tadema mentioned to Henschel that his work was not going well. The only picture completed during this period was the maudlin Portrait of Mrs George Armour of Princeton, New Jersey (No 397, 1900). Alma-Tadema was anxious to complete two paintings because 'the hollyhocks and oleanders...are fading fast and I have not finished.'167 The paintings Alma-Tadema refers to are Vain courtship (No 399, 1900) and Under the roof of blue Ionian weather (No 400, 1901). Vain courtship was commissioned by Thomas Agnew & Sons. The scene was set in the corner of a second storey Classical portico of his home in St. John's Wood, and its subject the forlorn sense of distant unrequited love.
Alma-Tadema's major involvement throughout 1900 and early 1901 was the production of Coriolanus, begun in 1880 when he had produced water-colours and sketches of the various scenes which Sir Henry Irving wished to stage. The project was postponed to enable him to concentrate on other Shakespearian productions with Ellen Terry. The play finally opened on April 15th, 1901. It was Irving's twelfth and last Shakespearian production, and commercially probably his most unsuccessful, running for only thirty four nights. This play marked the end of Irving's active involvement in theatre productions.
Besides his work for the theatre, Alma-Tadema had allied himself with other utilitarian arts. He had designed furniture, usually patterned after Pompeian or Egyptian models. These pieces were often seen in his ancient genre paintings. One particular 'schizophrenic' couch was in the Roman style on one side and Egyptian on the other. Some of Alma-Tadema's costume designs became the rage in women's apparel. Satin dresses made by Liberty of London 'alla Tadema' were very popular and wealthy American women idled in 'Tadema tunics'.
He interested himself in illustration, textiles, and, with Thomas Maws, frame-making. He considered all these diverse interests as being directly connected to the health of his painting and later publicly asserted his view that the decorative and fine arts were but part of a single whole.168 We can assume his remodeling efforts on his two homes brought him to this conclusion.
In 1902 Sir John Aird, the engineer, invited the artist to accompany his party to the dedication of the Assiut and Aswan dams which his firm had recently constructed in Egypt. At the age of sixty-six Alma-Tadema left his family in London towards the end of November to embark on an arduous six-week expedition. Aird was anxious to own an Egyptian picture by the artist and, according to Percy Cross Standing:
What the exact theme should be was the subject of numerous conferences between them. Finally Tadema gave Sir John a choice of three subjects, and without a great deal of hesitation he selected the familiar one of The finding of Moses [No 410, 1904].169
Lawrence Alma-Tadema The finding of Moses
Lawrence Alma-Tadema Silver favourites
Alma-Tadema worked for two years on this enormous canvas to produce one of his most ambitious paintings, complexity, sensitively and delicate execution. It was well received at the Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition, and was purchased by Aird for £5,250. We know few details of this trip and it cannot be claimed that his visit to Egypt effected stylistic changes in Alma-Tadema's work. The finding of Moses (the only finished picture resulting from the trip) does have something of a frieze-like quality about its composition. Perhaps it was the 'stage set' quality which came from his work in the theatre.
During 1902, Alma-Tadema had to delay a request for a picture by Thomas Agnew & Sons, and was unwilling to let the firm down again the following year. Consequently he worked hard to complete the important Silver favourites (No 407, 1903) by February for their 1903 exhibition of English Art. This was one of his most successful works at the time. The inspiration came from a poem by William Wordsworth.
On March 14th 1903 he received a communication from Buckingham Palace that the King and Queen wished to visit his studio on Tuesday 19th. One of the pictures which he had borrowed back for display during the Royal visit was the newly-finished Silver favourites, and the King was most impressed with the recently started The finding of Moses. The reason for the Royal visit is unclear, but presumably it went well as Alma-Tadema was awarded the Order of Merit less than two years later.
In April of 1903 Sir Isidore Spielman asked Tadema to serve on the committee for the British Section of the St Louis World's Fair in the United States, to take place in 1904. Alma-Tadema agreed to the request and his own work was well represented. His three paintings, The Coliseum (No 374, 1896), At the shrine of Venus (No 326, 1888) and Caracalla AD 211 (No 404, 1902), were all immensely popular and illustrated in the official catalogue.
Most of the summer and autumn of 1903 was spent on his own whilst his family were attending to their various states of health. Although he tried to work on his painting, forever the family man, he found the separation affected his concentration. Despite being on duty at the Royal Academy's Schools throughout the month he was able to paint one small oil entitled A peaceful Roman wooing (No 408, 1903) commissioned by Thomas Agnew & Son for M Knoedler & Son of New York.
During the first years of the twentieth century a craze for uniforms and decorations beguiled European society. Tadema like Gambart and other men of note began to wear their awards, medals, orders and ribbons to formal functions. However wearing foreign medals was frowned upon by most English sovereigns as it was felt that such a practice would promote the currying of favor from foreign powers and the weakening of national resolve. Queen Elizabeth I initiated the ban saying that she, 'Did not like her dogs to wear any collar but her own.'
Queen Victoria had died in 1901 and now her son Edward ascended to the throne. The coronation of King Edward VII took place in August 1902. Permission came from King Edward VII in early 1904 for Alma-Tadema to wear his collection of medals. William Bell Scott recognized Tadema's puerile need for attention and was critical of Alma-Tadema's penchant for outward signs of acceptance:
His command over the palette is like a miracle, yet his powers only give him pleasure when extrinsic evidences are awarded him. Now he could make a necklet of orders and crosses for his wife and still [he] wants more.170
In January of 1904 Alma-Tadema wrote to Mrs. Ebers about the sickness of his daughter Miss Anna who had been convalescing in Germany. He concludes the sad note, 'Health is actually the best we can have.'171 Miss Laurence was more to the point, "The doctor declared my sister for being very neurotic [insane].172 Although Anna would greatly improve she would never be wholly well.
The major event of 1905 was the exhibition of The finding of Moses (No 410, 1904) at the Royal Academy. In explaining this picture which proved extremely popular with public and critics, to Mrs Ebers, Alma-Tadema wrote, 'A quite big picture, Egyptian of course, and there is for me always the spirit of my friend Ebers near... since without him, Egypt does not exist.'173
On June 30th, 1905, King Edward VII conferred upon Alma-Tadema the newly-instituted Order of Merit. It consisted of a red cross worn around the neck with a blue-purple ribbon and had been given to only two other artists: Holman Hunt (on the same day), and earlier to George Frederick Watts. There were twelve civilian members chosen from leaders of art, literature and science. There were some who disapproved of Alma-Tadema's selection. Roger Fry's outcry in the weekly magazine the Nation, reflected the liberal position against 'official' art in Britain: 'How long will it take to disinfect the Order of Merit of Alma-Tadema's scented soap?', he wrote.174
The year had been one of Alma-Tadema's least productive. He completed only one opused work, a fairly small and simple composition entitled A world of their own (No 412, 1905). It was commissioned by the American firm Scott & Fowles of New York, and subsequently sold to the Taft family of Cincinnati.
Lawrence Alma-Tadema A world of their own
In January 1906, Alma-Tadema celebrated his seventieth birthday in robust health. He was now beginning to spend more time with his family and friends. Although his production between 1906 and his death in 1912 was small, the quality and ambitiousness of his work never flagged. Unlike many elderly painters, Alma-Tadema never lost his hand or eye, and some of his best work was produced during his remaining years.
The only works known to have been completed by Alma-Tadema in 1906 were Ask me no more for at a touch I yield (No 413, 1906, see illustration p.151) and a pencil drawing after this oil as an illustration in the Pall Mall Magazine's supplement of the Royal Academy show. The oil was commissioned by Arthur Tooth & Sons and inspired by 'The Princess' by Alfred Lord Tennyson. This was the last picture of Alma-Tadema's most persistent theme; lovers rendezvousing on marble terraces overlooking the blue Mediterranean.
The following year 1907, was artistically more active than the past few. In the spring, Alma-Tadema was under some pressure to finish Entering the Coliseum (No 414, 1907) for Sir Charles Wakefield of London. The painting was a version of the much larger and more important Caracalla and Geta (No 415, 1907), the most ambitious painting of his last years. Commissioned by Arthur Tooth & Sons, who also requested that the artist should write a lengthy letter describing how the picture was composed and how its execution progressed.
The painting depicts a gala performance given in the Coliseum by Septimius Severus on the occasion of his bestowing the title of Antonius Caesar on his son Caracalla. Alma-Tadema counted no less than 2,500 individually painted spectators, and allowed for another 2,500 to be hidden by columns and garlands. As the picture is of a seventh of the Coliseum, this would make a total crowd of about 35,000 for the entire arena which agrees with scholarly calculations. Such scholarly speculation led one reviewer to proclaim in the Nottingham Daily Guardian that Alma-Tadema had the, 'Spirit of a scientist and archaeologist [but] not an artist!'
Alma-Tadema very rarely used Christian themes, but his next painting, Orante (No 416, 1907) depicts an early Christian martyr. It was a companion piece to Bacchante (No 417, 1907) and together they serve as a poignant contrast between Christian and pagan subjects. It is unclear why Sir John Aird commissioned him to paint this unusual pair.
Lawrence Alma-Tadema Ask me no more for at a touch I yield
Lawrence Alma-Tadema Caracalla and Geta
The Summer Exhibition of 1907 was the first in nearly forty years to be without an entry by Alma-Tadema. It is possible that his attention to Caracalla and Geta (No 415, 1907) took up all his time. The problem also lay in the fact that much of his work was now exported to America, from whence it could not be borrowed back for the Royal Academy.175
His full election to the Royal Accademia Romana di San Luca in Rome called for a diploma picture, which was to be a self-portrait (No 418, 1907). This painting was his only entry into the Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition of 1908 and was shown in its unfinished state. It was later repainted (No 431, 1912) adding the straw hat in which he often worked.
He had not completed a water-colour since those he painted as gifts to the royal family in 1901-2. He now produced two opused water-colours for Thomas Agnew & Sons for their 41st Annual Exhibition of Water-Colour Drawings. These were Melodie del Mare e del'Amore (Op. CCCLXXXV, water-colour,1908) and a second version of Ask me no more for at a touch I yield, entitled Youth (Op. CCCLXXXVI, water-colour,1908).
Later that autumn Alma-Tadema completed his small oil, The golden hour (No 419, 1908) which was purchased directly from the artist's studio by William Cain. Marion Tatershall, the model for the painting was a favourite of Alma-Tadema's probably because of her red hair which was so similar to Laura's. The painting had languished in the studio for at least eight months before it was sold to Mr Cain. In a letter to his model Alma-Tadema explains, 'You have been sold at last and have gone somewhere in Cheshire. The studio looks very empty without you!'176
At Aphrodite's cradle (No 420, 1908), a complete re-working of the earlier oil The ever-new horizon (No 409, 1903), was completed in November. It seems that Agnew's had been unable to sell the earlier state of the picture and had asked Alma-Tadema to repaint it. It was inspired by Horace's Odes (BkI.30) and shows a quintet of love-lorn ladies overlooking the sea from a high precipice, praying for their men to return. Both of these late 1908 pictures demonstrate Alma-Tadema's continued technical prowess and tender poetic sensitivity.
A message of love (No 421, 1909) was completed at the beginning of 1909 and immediately shipped to Messrs M Knoedler & Co in New York. In April Alma-Tadema finished the important painting of an ancient Roman bath, A favourite custom (No 422, 1909). It was his single entry into the Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition, and elicited the remark from Walter Pach, that, 'Its narrative content hints at a strange transition from Victorian opulence to risqué Edwardian humour'.177
Towards the end of April, the Secretary of the Academy told Alma-Tadema that the President and Council had honoured him by purchasing A favourite custom from the exhibition out of the Chantrey Bequest. Sir Frances Legatt Chantrey had left the Royal Academy £105,600 in his will, the income from which was to be applied by the President and Council to purchase works of art executed within Great Britain which were to form the nucleus of a national collection of British art. Eventually the entire collection of some eighty-five pieces were moved to the newly finished Tate Gallery.
As with her husband, Laura's paintings in 1909 were among her most brilliant. Her Royal Academy entry that year was her last painting, Sigh no more, ladies, depicting in the background a mirror which reflects the images of herself and her husband, with their two daughters. After years of ill health, she died unexpectedly on Sunday August 15th at the age of fifty-seven.
It was said he had remarked that his highest ambition was to have written on his own tombstone, 'Here lies the husband of Mrs. Alma-Tadema.'178 Alma-Tadema himself best expressed the after-shock of depression that followed Laura's death. In a letter to his cousin, H W Mesdag he explains:
The blow is heavy and that is why I do feel quite upset. 7:15 in the evening exactly three weeks ago she passed away, the best of all women, to me at least she was so completely. Already four or five years she was suffering from diabetes and had to deny herself alot. Karlsbad was helpful three years ago, yet without effect the next year. Then 'Norden Clinik' in Frankfurt was much happier and succeeded almost to cure her for a short time. She therefore visited this year to same place under Dr. Lampé but her disease grew worse and on her return at the end of July she was sent to a place to cure near Haslemere... Then the hot days came and all was over after three days of wandering in her mind. Nobody knows what we have lost.179
Alma-Tadema spent the following month sorting through her effects and arrangements were made for the probate of her will. Her estate of £41,451 net was retained by her husband. He was a bit perturbed when he discovered that the oak paneling and furniture he had given Laura were willed to his daughters instead of himself!
Perhaps Alma-Tadema's best portrait was painted during the period of bereavement. His Portrait of Ilona Eibenschutz (No 424, 1909) is a marvel of balance between a fashionable portrait and a sensitive portrayal of personality. Ilona Eibenschutz, the pianist, was a frequent entertainer at Alma-Tadema's musical evenings, and the oil was given to her as a wedding present.
The voice of spring (No 425, 1910, see illustration p.152) was mostly painted after Laura's death. The picture was highly acclaimed at the 1910 Summer Exhibition of the Royal Academy and was further proof that his art experienced no loss of quality towards the end of his life. Alma-Tadema had been criticized throughout his career for not being sufficiently introspective with his central figures, which had seemed mindless to most critics. The voice of spring quelled that criticism with the main figure's gentle, contemplative spirit.
For the Academy's 1911 Summer Exhibition, Alma-Tadema painted a pair, When flowers return (No 427, 1911) and Summer offering (No 428, 1911, see illustration p.1530) both commissions for Sir John Aird. Summer offering, more than any other picture, seems to symbolize Alma-Tadema's thoughts at the time. It is brightly coloured, without apparent underlying connotations, depicting in the foreground Marion Tatershall, his model, and another woman holding festoons of pink, white and yellow roses. They are so strikingly alive, that it is easy to overlook another female figure, representing Laura, almost lost in the lower left-hand corner. She too holds flowers, but her eyes are almost closed.
With the loss of Laura and so many friends, Tadema's enthusiasm began to wane, and he no longer had the energy to carry on at his previous pace. From the Royal Pavilion Hotel in Folkestone, where he had gone to rest, he wrote to the President and Council of the Royal Academy:
After thirty-one years my time to go has come. The doctors say I have been too busy, I therefore beg of you to be so good as to replace me at the council and transfer the honour to another member younger and stronger than I.180
Alma-Tadema's last major oil was Preparation in the Coliseum (No 432, 1912). It was a highly ambitious painting measuring over 60 1/2 x 31 1/2" (154 x 80 cm) and his last entry into the Academy Summer Exhibitions. Although seventy-six at the time, the strength of his brush-work was unsurpassed. Some areas of the painting were unfinished by sending-in day, but the curious head of the standing Bacchante is one of Alma-Tadema's best. It seems to have been influenced by the work of the young symbolist Fernand Khnopff of Belgium.
Comyns Carr later recalled his last meeting with his old friend at about this time, which:
...was at a little supper party given by Sir Herbert Tree on the occasion of the first performance of Macbeth. It was impossible for those who had known him in the days of his full vigour not to be conscious even then that his health was failing. From the time of his wife's death, he had never, indeed, shown the same elasticity of spirit, though with valiant courage he had set himself to take up the broken thread of his life, retaining even to the last the unfailing characteristic of happier days.181
Towards the end of May, accompanied by his daughter Anna, Alma-Tadema went to the Spa in Wiesbaden on medical advice, but against his own wishes. Much to his disappointment, the convalescence was not progressing at all well. In a letter to Henschel, Alma-Tadema's last known correspondence, he complained that, 'alas I am if anything worse since I followed the doctor's advice to leave my house and comfort.'182 Later the London Times reported, "Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema is slowly sinking. He has retained no food for ten days. Dr. Abend the stomach specialist, is attending him. His daughters have abandoned hope."
He died there on Friday June 28th, 1912 at the age of seventy-six and a half, whilst undergoing treatment for an ulceration or absess of the stomach. His daughters, Miss Laurense and Anna, brought the body back to London by train. The body arrived at Victoria Station by the Flushing Boat Train on the 30th of June and taken to 34 Grove End Road.183
He was laid under the aluminum dome at his home before the funeral, and then buried on July 5th in the crypt of St Paul's Cathedral close to his friends Holman Hunt, Lord Leighton, Millais and Landseer. His pall bearers were the leaders of the major societies which Tadema was a member, included: E. J. Poynter, G. J. Frampton, Alfred East, E. A. Waterlow, C. H. Read, J. J. Shannon, Sir F. Short and Reginald Blomfield.184 The Biblical text of I Corinthians chapter 15 was used for the eulogy and Westley's "Thou will keep him in perfect peace" was sang. Comyns Carr recalled:
As I stood beside his coffin that had been reverently set down in the great studio, I found it buried beneath an avalanche of flowers, which his countless friends had sent as a last mark of love and affection. And it was indeed, a fitting tribute to the dead artist; for Alma-Tadema, while he lived, had an absolute passion for flowers.185
Tadema's spinster daughters do not appear to have been taken care of generously under the terms of the will. Perhaps Alma-Tadema did not trust them with larger sums of money, or possibly did not approve of their Bohemian life-style. He may have been advised not to put large unrestrained funds into the hands of his worldly spinster daughters. Edmund Gosse seemed to reflect the general discontent with the contents of the will:
You will be interested, and I think surprised, to hear that Tadema has left the whole of his fortune, including what he inherited from my sister-in-law, to the Royal Academy, every penny, with no bequests. Only the income as an annuity is to be paid to each of his daughters. But nothing is left to them, except the contents of their bedrooms. Please treat this as confidential. The result is that though they will enjoy a good income, for the moment they are highly embarrassed, without any capital to use for their necessary charges etc. What extraordinary exhibitions of character are made in wills.186
The Royal Academy's 44th Winter Exhibition of 1913 honoured Alma-Tadema with a large exhibition of his work, including 213 oils, water-colours and drawings. The exhibition was held between January 6th and March 15th, 1913. The daughters helped in assembling the pictures and writing the catalogue. It was the largest showing of the artist's work, surpassing the 182 works shown in the 1882-3 Grosvenor Gallery Exhibition.
Response to the show was apathetic with only 17,000 members of the public attending the exhibition.187 This, and the disparaging comments about the exhibition, probably accounted for the low prices bid at the auction of the contents of Alma-Tadema's house the following June.188 The dark period for Alma-Tadema's reputation was about to begin. A writer in the January 1913 issue of Nation said, whilst reviewing the memorial exhibition:
I think Tadema himself realized that his greatness was a little dimmed in the eyes of the world before he died. He could sometimes be so bitter that it was clear he heard with apprehension the younger generation of critics and artists knocking at his door.189
Lawrence Alma-Tadema The voice of spring
The great battle of this period was no longer between Classicism and Romanticism. The general direction of modern art during the first decade of the twentieth century was towards breaking down the traditional absolutes in art held by the Academy. By the end of his life Alma-Tadema had seen the rise of; Post-Impressionism, Fauvism, Cubism and Futurism, all of which he heartily disapproved. As his pupil John Collier wrote, 'it is impossible to reconcile the art of Alma-Tadema with that of Matisse, Gauguin and Picasso.'190
Soon after his death the London tabloids carried derogatory obituaries denouncing his art. The Nation became the battleground for skirmishes over Alma-Tadema's work then at Burlington House, and bitter arguments lasted several weeks between his detractors: Roger Fry, Lytton Strachey and Edward Wadsworth, and his apologists: G.B. Shaw, William Blake Richmond, Sir John Collier and others.
As a last homage the Royal Academy asked Sir George Frampton to sculpt a bronze plaque for above the door of Alma-Tadema's home in Dubbele Straat in his birthplace Dronrijp. Within months of the unveiling Europe was at war, and Alma-Tadema's name quickly forgotten.