Feel Art Again: "Gathering Pansies"

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Gathering Pansies

In January, we discussed Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema and one of his paintings, "The Roses of Heliogabalus." His second wife, Lady Laura Theresa Alma-Tadema, was also an accomplished artist. Since "Feel Art Again" has been suffering a dearth of female artists and spring is almost upon us, now is a good time to take a look at Lady Alma-Tadema's "Gathering Pansies."

1. Originally, Laura trained in music and those close to her "thought that she would show some originality as a composer." She took up painting upon meeting Lawrence Alma-Tadema, though, and became a successful painter instead. Her step-daughter Anna and both her sisters, Emily and Ellen, were also painters.

2. Laura met Lawrence at the home of Madox Brown, under whom her sister Ellen was studying. At the time, Laura was 17 and Lawrence was 33, a recent widower, but he fell in love with her at first sight. After Lawrence relocated to England at the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, Laura began taking painting lessons with him, and it was during a lesson that he proposed. They married in 1871, two years after they first met.

3. Unlike some artists, Laura received great recognition during her lifetime. She was one of only two English women to exhibit at the Paris International Exhibition in 1878. From the German government she received a gold medal in 1896, when the Emperor bought one of her paintings for the Empress.

4. As a well-respected artist and as the wife of a successful artist, Laura was well-connected in the art world. She was frequently painted by Lawrence after their marriage and both she and Lawrence, along with Sir Edward Poynter and other contemporaries, are featured in Henry Jamyn Brooks' painting, "Private View of the Old Masters Exhibition, Royal Academy, 1888." She was also friends with Dante Gabriel Rossetti (previously featured on "Feel Art Again").

5. Laura painted some classical subjects like those for which her husband was famous, but she specialized in sentimental domestic and genre scenes of women and children. Most of her paintings are in 17th-century Dutch settings.

6. Although Laura painted professionally for 35 years, from her first success at the Paris Salon in 1873 to her death, she produced only 100 known signed works.

A larger version of "Gathering Pansies" is available here.

"Feel Art Again" appears every Tuesday and Thursday.

Suggestions, especially of pre-1900 female artists, are always welcome.

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March 27, 2008 - 11:30am
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