The Dutch artist Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema has initially been named Lourens Alma Tadema by his father Jiltes Tadema and his mother, Hinke Dirks Brouwer. He was born on January 1836 and was his mother’s third child, and his father’s sixth; as Tadema means “son of Tade”. Along with his family, the young Tadema moved to a city near Leeuwarden in 1838, because of his father’s work. Jiltes passed away shortly after, leaving Hinke with five children to tend to - including the three boys from his previous marriage. Inclined to work with art, Hinke understood its importance and encouraged her children to study drawing. Although Tadema had contact with the art world as a child, his family wished he’d study law, but in 1851 everything changed. The young fifteen-year-old fell ill - diagnosed with tuberculosis, and the doctors gave him a short time to live. This tragic news inspired him to do what he always wished before his death: make art. Tadema dedicated his time to painting and drawing while recuperating his health and proving his doctors wrong.
In 1852, now in perfect health, Tadema moved to Belgium where he studied at the Royal Academy of Antwerp. He continued at the Academy for four years and was praised by teachers and critics for the works he produced there, even receiving many prestigious awards. He left school by 1855 and began working as an assistant to Louis Lodewijk Jan de Taeye, a teacher and painter who had lectured Tadema on art history and historical costumes during the Academy. The Dutch painter eventually became Taeye’s studio assistant and was inspired by subjects of the Salian Frankish dynasty, named Merovingian - depicting the scenes in great historical accuracy. Around 1858, Tadema left for Leeuwarden and then Antwerp to work in the most prestigious art studios in Belgium with Baron Jan August Hendrik Leys. After about four years, the artist feels prepared to start his career on his own and left Leys’ studio. In 1863, Tadema married to Marie-Pauline Gressin Dumoulin, who he has three children with - the eldest passed away an infant, while the two daughters, Anna and Laurence, became a painter and a writer, respectfully.
Tadema began an interest in Classical subjects after visiting Florence, Naples, Rome, and Pompeii for his honeymoon, reflecting on his production for many years. In 1865, the artist had the honor of being knighted at the Order of Leopold in Brussels, where he had moved. Tragically, Pauline passed away after contracting smallpox in 1869, at the age of thirty-two, leaving the widowed artist in a deep depression, who stopped painting for months. By the end of 1869, Tadema was visiting the painter Ford Madox Brown in London, where he met a young girl named Laura Theresa Epps. He became madly in love with her, deciding to move to London in 1870, and they got married a year after. Epps was a highly respected painter herself and appear in Tadema’s paintings like The Women of Amphissa. Tadema hit the peak of his artistic career, becoming the most well paid and famous painter of his time. In 1871, the artist came in contact with Victorian artists of the Pre-Raphaelites, influencing his work, especially in his color pallet. On June 1912, at seventy-six years old, Tadema passed away after undergoing treatment for stomach ulcers, outliving his beloved partner by about three years. Tadema continued painting until his death, concluding his last major artwork in the year of his passing, entitled Preparation in the Coliseum.