May 30, 2017

Williamstown, Massachusetts—Few artists’ legacies have experienced the extreme highs and lows accorded to Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (British, born Netherlands, 1836–1912), best known as a painter of classical antiquity, over the last century. Since the 1980s, private collectors and museum curators have rediscovered Alma-Tadema’s many charms. Peter Trippi, editor-in-chief of Fine Art Connoisseur and 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—at a free lecture entitled “From the Vanderbilts to Candid Camera: The Rise, Fall, and Rise of Lawrence Alma-Tadema’s Reputation” at the Clark Art Institute on Saturday, June 17 at 3 pm. The lecture complements the Clark’s exhibition Orchestrating Elegance: Alma-Tadema and Design, on view June 4–September 4, 2017.

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 Allen Funt, the contrarian creator of television’s Candid Camera, 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 lecture, held in the Clark’s auditorium, is free and open to the public. Admission to the exhibition will be charged.

Peter Trippi has edited Fine Art Connoisseur since 2006. Previously, he directed New York’s Dahesh Museum of Art, which specializes in nineteenth-century European academic painting and sculpture; before that, he held senior posts at the Brooklyn Museum and Baltimore Museum of Art.
In 2002, Phaidon Press published Trippi’s monograph J W Waterhouse, which reassesses the Victorian painter best known for his painting The Lady of Shalott at Tate Britain. Trippi went on to co-curate the Waterhouse retrospective that appeared 2008–10 in the Netherlands, England, and Canada. In 2016, Trippi co-curated the exhibition Lawrence Alma-Tadema: At Home in Antiquity, which is visiting three European museums through 2017: the Fries Museum (Leeuwarden, Netherlands), Belvedere (Vienna, Austria), and Leighton House Museum (London). Trippi co-edited and contributed to the 250-page book that accompanies the project (Prestel).
He is currently president of the Association of Historians of Nineteenth-Century Art and of the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation. He is former chair of the Courtauld Institute of Art’s U.S. Alumni Group, and past president of Historians of British Art.
The Clark Art Institute, located in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, is one of a small number of institutions globally that is both an art museum and a center for research, critical discussion, and higher education in the visual arts. Opened in 1955, the Clark houses exceptional European and American paintings and sculpture, extensive collections of master prints and drawings, English silver, and early photography. Acting as convener through its Research and Academic Program, the Clark gathers an international community of scholars to participate in a lively program of conferences, colloquia, and workshops on topics of vital importance to the visual arts. The Clark library, consisting of more than 240,000 volumes, is one of the nation’s premier art history libraries. The Clark also houses and co-sponsors the Williams College Graduate Program in the History of Art.
The Clark is located at 225 South Street in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Galleries are open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 am to 5 pm; open daily in July and August. Admission is $20; free year-round for Clark members, children 18 and younger, and students with valid ID. For more information, visit or call 413 458 2303.
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