Monday, May 10, 2010

Perfect Luxury

Preparation in the Coliseum (1912) by the Dutch painter Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836-1912).
This was the last great painting by the famous artist. Above all it strikes by it’s details: the marble, the flowers, the silver, the furs.

Most impressive are probably the fruits and the plates on the marble table. Here a detail.

Sometimes people are quoting artwork like this as "real art" opposite to less well done modern art. But I think it’s more symptomatic of the decline of history painting in general. Almost obsessed Alma-Tadema amasses more and more of these perfectly painted details, probably to ensure the value of the painting to underline his knowledge of the past.

But a well done illusion is not already art. For example Alma-Tadema was very afraid of falsifications and introduced a special identification system together with his signature. Sure it’s an impressive painting and it’s much better than a lot of kitsch in that time, but it hasn’t for example half the power of a good illustration by Howard Pyle.


  1. Another wonderful commentary....and thank you for the bonus of having to Google Howard Pyle, which continued today's art lesson. :)

  2. Sometimes I cannot avoid to compare.