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A Still Life from Alma-Tadema

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A Still Life from Alma-Tadema

Post by Joanna1245 on Wed Jan 18, 2017 4:22 am

Lawrence Alma-Tadema’s paintings are, to me, a bit of a guilty pleasure. There is something frivolous and overblown about them that turn some people off, but I’ve always loved them for the sheer vitality of the vision he presents. Here is bombast, excess, flourishes, and sumptuousness.
Still Life with Tulips by Lawrence Alma-Tadema.
Still Life with Tulips by Lawrence Alma-Tadema.

What I just recently stumbled was an Alma-Tadema still life. I had never seen it before and among the dozens of paintings he did of figures, I could just a few standalone still lifes. To be sure, the artist loved still lifes—the flowers and objects that he fills his other paintings with attest to that. But this still life is one that I found weeks ago and I’ve looked at it several times since then. It entrances me. I don’t really know why, but I do know what makes it a successful painting, so here’s what to keep in mind as you study Alma-Tadema’s still life—“rules” that are as true for his figurative works as they are for those paintings that don’t feature anyone at all.

Symmetry, meet asymmetry. The bouquet is positioned in the bottom right of the canvas and is, itself, not neat and tidy but spills about in an almost diamond shape, poking up, down, and across. This gives substantial weight to the flowers without it feeling staged.

King of the crop. The artist is the king of knowing the power of the crop–where to cut the image off and how to position the objects in the “frame” of the canvas. Here, Alma-Tadema focuses our gaze very tightly. We can’t tell if this is a bouquet in a garden, on a table against a wall papered in vines. We see just enough to want to see more, and that’s what pulls us in.

Highlights, an artist’s best friend. The primary highlights on the white petals of the bouquet drive our eye their first. But there is a secondary section of highlights on, around, and behind the sprig of purple flowers off to the left that catch us next, pulling our attention further into and across the surface.

Go for it. The background pattern is busy. The rim of the vase that holds the bouquet is patterned. The tulips themselves have a tiger-stripe effect that is eye-catching. What all this amounts to is that there is a lot going on here and yet it works. It really works. So don’t be afraid about following your bliss and including the things you want in your paintings simply because you love them. Others will love them too!

Joanna1245

Number of posts : 44
Registration date : 2017-01-10

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