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Free Lecture: From the Vanderbilts to Candid Camera
Jun 17, 2017 @ 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm UTC-4
Few artists’ legacies have experienced the extreme highs and lows accorded to Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema over the last century. Since the 1980s, private collectors and museum curators have rediscovered Alma-Tadema’s many charms. Peter Trippi, co-curator of a large Alma-Tadema exhibition currently touring Europe, explores how and why these swings have occurred, and what they tell us about changes in taste generally.
Exhibited and published internationally, Alma-Tadema’s major paintings fetched high prices before his death in 1912, but World War I changed everything. By the 1950s, people were buying them primarily for their elaborate gilt frames, and in the 1960s the contrarian creator of television’s Candid Camera series, Allen Funt, acquired more than thirty pictures after a London dealer told him Alma-Tadema was the worst painter of the nineteenth century. A key painting once owned by William H. Vanderbilt spent decades in the dining room of a famous Baltimore restaurant until it was cleaned and sold at Sotheby’s in 1999. In 2010 The Finding of Moses scored the artist’s record when it sold—again at Sotheby’s—for $35.9 million.
The Clark’s exhibition Orchestrating Elegance: Alma-Tadema and Design is on view June 4–September 4, 2017.
Generous contributors to Orchestrating Elegance: Alma-Tadema and Design include Sylvia and Leonard Marx and the National Endowment for the Arts, with additional support from the Coby Foundation, Ltd., Jeannene Booher, Carmela and Paul Haklisch, and Robert D. Kraus. The exhibition catalogue has been published with the generous support of the Gerry Charitable Trust, with additional support from Furthermore: a program of the J.M. Kaplan Fund. This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.
Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836–1912), The Finding of Moses (detail), 1904. Oil on canvas, 137.7 x 213.4 cm. Private collection, courtesy Christie’s