Alma-Tadema: Classical Charm


In one week the exhibition Alma-Tadema. Klassieke verleiding (Classical Charm) will open at the Fries Museum in Leeuwarden. From the designs by architect Paul Toornend and the first glimpses of the exhibition architecture, I have full confidence this will become a major, much talked about exhibition, not only for the Netherlands, but also for countries nearby such as Germany. Works by Alma-Tadema from all over the world have been included, from little known treasures to world famous titles such as The Roses of Heliogabalus and Silver Favourites. From famous museums, renowned private collectors, and the Fries Museum itself, including its recent acquisition Entrance to a Theatre and its charming Amo te. ama me. The parabole of Tadema’s career, starting in the small Frisian village of Dronrijp, via Antwerp, to his breakthrough, fame and fortune in London, will be well visualised. Houses and interiors are a central theme, not only in the sense of Tadema’s imagined interiors from Roman and Egyptian Antiquity but also the interiors of his own houses, which he designed himself and decorated with works by himself, relatives and close friends. The exhibition highlights Tadema’s thorough research of Antiquity but also his contemporary involvement in design of furniture and of sets and costumes for the stage. Finally, by clips of various films from the 1910s, but also classics such as Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments and Ridley Scott’s Gladiator, the Second Life of Tadema’s work in cinema will be revealed. A prologue to this film and painting section you’ll see in this compilation above: on the levels of citations, deep staging and use of props based on antique furniture there is much to discover in Antiquity films related to Tadema.

Apart from the exhibition, art house Slieker (hosted within the premises of the Fries Museum) will show a full programme of silent and sound films depicting Antiquity , such as the shorts Gli ultimi giorni di Pompei (Luigi Maggi 1908), Agrippina (Enrico Guazzoni 1910), Le fils de Locuste (Louis Feuillade 1911) and L’ Orgie romaine (Louis Feuillade 1911). While Feuillade is known for his crime serials like Fantomas, around 1910 he made a whole range of interesting historical films, often beautifully hand-coloured. These short films will be shown with live music (harp, flute, violin) on Friday night 7 October, with an introduction by myself. Other screenings involve the silent Ben-Hur (1925) by Fred Niblo and with Ramon Novarro, the 1951 Quo vadis? by Mervyn LeRoy and starring Peter Ustinov as Nero, The Ten Commandments (DeMille 1956) with Yul Brynner and Charlton Heston, Ben-Hur (William Wyler 1959) with Heston and Stephen Boyd, The Fall of the Roman Empire (Anthony Mann 1964) with Boyd and Sophia Loren, Gladiator (Ridley Scott 2000) with Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix and Connie Nielsen, Pompeii (Paul W.S. Andersson 2014) with Kit Harington and Kiefer Sutherland, and Exodus: Gods and Kings (Ridley Scott 2014) with Christian Bale and Joel Edgerton. All on the big screen. Moreover, within its Sunday Cinema Concert series the EYE Filmmuseum will show on Sunday 18 December the 1913 version of Quo vadis? by Enrico Guazzoni, with an ensemble led by Martin de Ruiter. He will use a selfmade score based on music written for the opera Quo vadis? (1909) by French composer Jean Nouguès. Again, the film will be introduced by myself.

Fries Museum organizes a series of Saturday lectures by the various curators of this exhibition, so Peter Trippi, Elizabeth Prettejohn, Marlies Stoter and myself, plus additional speakers. Topics are e.g. the studio house as laboratory (1/10), Tadema’s immersion of his viewers (8/10), Tadema’s as portrait painter (20/10 and 27/10), his fascination for the East (11/12), and my own topic: Tadema and cinema (26/11). Finally, Prestel will edit a lavish book in three language editions (Dutch, German, English), as the exhibition afterwards will travel to Belvedere Museum (Vienna ) and Leighton House (London). Editors of the book are Peter Trippi and Elizabeth Prettejohn.


~ by Ivo Blom on September 23, 2016.

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