Anna Alma-Tadema was the younger daughter of the Dutch painter Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836-1912) and his first wife, Marie-Pauline Gressin de Boisgirard. The family moved to London in 1870 and it was here that Anna received her early artistic training with her father and stepmother, Laura (1852-1909).
Anna, very much inspired by her father, focused on painting the elaborate interiors of the family home, as well as portraits and flower paintings. She made several watercolours of the interior of the first Alma-Tadema family home, Townshend House, near Regent's Park, London, including The Drawing Room, which was exhibited at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and The Gold Room, shown at the Royal Academy in 1885. By the time the present watercolour was executed, the Alma-Tadema family had moved to 17, Grove End Road, St John's Wood, formerly the home of James Tissot (1836-1902). On moving in, Alma-Tadema almost entirely remodelled the house, setting out to create a temple of aestheticism, in which various rooms had different themes.
The room depicted here seems to be the upstairs room which Tissot, on visiting in 1896, had noticed was panelled with his old window shutters (J. Laver, Vulgar Society: the Romantic Career of James Tissot 1836-1902, London, 1936, p. 60), showing Alma-Tadema's creativity in his remodelling of the house. The angle chair in the foreground is a device often seen in Laura Alma-Tadema's works.
Anna's detail and realism creates a tangible sense not only of the detail of the room, but of its atmosphere. The violet ink has connotations of modesty and humility, and the anemones on the bureau signify abandonment and a fleeting love. The central figure pulls distractedly at her necklace, scattering its beads, as the hand of an unseen figure pulls the door shut behind them, suggesting the end of a passionate love affair. A photogravure of a picture by Anna with this title was sold at the sale of the contents of Grove End Road, 9-16 June 1913, lot 762.
Alma-Tadema exhibited at the Royal Academy between 1885 and 1903, as well as at the Grosvenor Gallery and the New Gallery.
We are grateful to Charlotte Gere for her help in preparing this catalogue entry.