• 19 to 21 October 2017
  • Multiple locations: Leighton House, Paul Mellon Centre, Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image (addresses below)

This symposium aims to air and develop new research inspired by the exhibition Alma-Tadema: At Home in Antiquity, on view at Leighton House Museum, its third and final venue, from 7 July to 29 October 2017. It brings together scholars and students from art and design history, architectural history, garden history, classics, classical reception studies, film studies, theatre history, musicology, and Victorian studies among others. The symposium will include screenings of relevant films and film-clips as well as an opportunity to view the exhibition at Leighton House.

Framed painting of an interior scene with woman The exhibition explores the fascination of the artist Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836-1912) with the representation of domestic life in antiquity and how this interest was expressed through the two remarkable studio-houses he created in the London neighbourhood of St John’s Wood together with his wife Laura (1852-1909), their family and friends. The exhibition also offers new insights into Tadema’s influence on cinema, something often mentioned but never before explored in concrete terms. Not only did Tadema’s paintings inspire some of the spectacular tableaux of epic films set in classical antiquity, but the way the paintings and studio-houses encourage the viewer to experience and move through space has had a profound influence on directors and designers from the pioneering decades of cinema through to the present day. The exhibition, initiated by the Fries Museum in Tadema’s home town of Leeuwarden and also shown at the Belvedere, Vienna, presents a new view of the artist: not merely a ‘Victorian classicist’, but an innovator and collaborator whose vision of classical antiquity proves more thought-provoking as well as more widely influential than previously supposed.

In this symposium we wish to explore the wider contexts and ramifications of the exhibition’s concerns. Areas to be addressed focus on two key issues:

  1. The studio houses [Townshend House (North Gate, Regent’s Park, inhabited by the family 1871-85) and 17 (later 34) Grove End Road, St John’s Wood (formerly inhabited by James Tissot; acquired by the Tademas in 1883 and extensively remodeled)] including: the roles of family and friends in their creation; London studio-houses of the period; studio-houses abroad (Europe and farther afield); architectural and interior design contexts; the gardens; the collections and contents; representations of their interiors in the work of the Tademas, their contemporaries, and the next generation; music; writings; the work of women artists in the extended Tadema family.
  2. Films set in classical antiquity including: the dissemination of Tadema’s paintings in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (etchings, illustrations, photographs, tableaux vivants, stage sets); relations among painting, theatre, tableaux vivants and film in the late nineteenth century and beyond; the realisation and mobilisation of Tadema’s antiquarian paintings on screen; the evocation of Tadema’s sets, props, costumes, colour and depth of field; the impact of Tadema’s paintings on particular films, directors, and designers, from the first days of cinema to the present.


Tickets are being sold separately to Friday 20th October (£20 Standard Rate; £10 Student & Senior Citizens Rate, plus admin fee) and Saturday 21st October (£20 Standard Rate; £10 Student & Senior Citizens Rate, plus admin fee), but all tickets include entry to the private view of Alma-Tadema: At Home in Antiquity exhibition at Leighton House on Thursday 19th October between 18.30-20.30.

Locations and addresses

19th October, 18.30-20:30
Leighton House Museum
12 Holland Park Rd,
Kensington, London W14 8LZ

20th October, 09.00-18.45
Paul Mellon Centre
16 Bedford Square
London, WC1B 3JA

21st October, 09.00-18.45
Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image
School of Arts at 43-46 Gordon Square,
Bloomsbury, London

Organising committee: Elizabeth Prettejohn, Peter Trippi, Sarah Victoria Turner, Maria Wyke and Ian Christie

The Alma-Tadema: At Home in Antiquity exhibition and its international tour have been organized by the Fries Museum in Leeuwarden (Friesland), where Alma-Tadema lived as a boy; it was guest co-curated by Elizabeth Prettejohn (University of York), Peter Trippi (independent scholar, New York), and Ivo Blom (Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam). Its three venues are the Fries Museum (1 October 2016 – 7 February 2017), the Belvedere, Vienna (24 February – 18 June 2017), and the Leighton House Museum, London (7 July – 29 October 2017).