I've written before about Lawrence Alma-Tadema,'the worst painter of the 19th century' (according to Ruskin, never one to mince his words). Sir Lawrence I should say, for the doughty fellow was knighted in 1899, joining the distinguished list of foreign-born artist to be so honoured - Rubens, Van Dyck, Kneller, etc. A celebratory banquet, attended by the giants of the artistic world, was duly laid on at the Royal Academy, and great was the rejoicing; the genial Alma-Tadema seems to have been as popular with his fellow artists as with the public. The proceedings became positively uproarious when a song, the Carmen Tademare - specially written by the dramatist, critic, gallery owner and impresario Joseph Comyns Carr, with music by George Henschel (also present) - was sung, with everyone joining in on the chorus with gusto:
'Who knows him well he best can tell
That a stouter friend hath no man
Than this lusty Knight who for our delight
Hath painted Greek and Roman.
Then here let every citizen
Who holds a brush or wields a pen
Drink deep as his Zuyder Zee
To Alma-Tad - of the Royal Acad -
Of the Royal Academee!'
Still reading Victorian Olympus then? you inquire wearily. I am. Although it's a short book, my reading time has been even shorter - but I shall be finishing it today and moving on...