Drawn to Antiquity

Drawn to Antiquity

Works on Paper from the Lawrence Alma-Tadema Collection

Print Bay Display

The artist whose work inspired the design for Ridley Scott’s Hollywood blockbuster Gladiator comes under the spotlight in this fascinating display.

Drawn to Antiquity features twelve drawings from the Lawrence Alma-Tadema Collection at the University of Birmingham’s Cadbury Research Library (Special Collections), which holds a total of 584 drawings, 5000 photographs and 4000 books on antiquity from the artist’s own collection, as well as more than 300 items of personal correspondence.

Dutch artist Lawrence Alma-Tadema pursued a lifelong fascination with classical subjects, studying and drawing artefacts in the British Museum and other European institutions. These informed his paintings – typically, classical scenes featuring languorous and beautiful figures against lavish marble settings. These, in turn, inspired Gladiator director Ridley Scott and production manager Arthur Max, who dubbed the film’s design ethos ‘Black Tadema’ – a sort of dark twist on the artist’s interpretation of antiquity.

The display covers a wide range of Alma-Tadema’s interests, life and family, and has been curated by Sarah Kilroy, Head of Conservation and Programming at the Cadbury Research Library.

11 June to 3 October

Free admission; booking essential.

Book your visit here.


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Audio and transcript available.

29 June 2021