Writing of this official commission, the artist commented that 'It is so nice painting the face of an old friend, I know nothing more delightful'. For once, sittings must have been a pleasure for Alma-Tadema rather than a chore, and Aitchison is shown as though in conversation after a good dinner. George Aitchison (1825–1910) was President of the Royal Institute of British Architects, 1896–1899. He was much more involved in teaching and decorative design than in architectural practice and was Professor of Architecture at the Royal Academy from 1887. His major surviving work is Leighton House, Kensington, designed for Frederic Leighton, RA in 1865 and enlarged with an Arab Hall incorporating genuine Moorish tiles in 1877. Although he had an interest in functional architecture, much of his design work was for elaborate interiors in existing houses for millionaire art collectors and those aesthetically minded members of Society known as 'The Souls'. Alma-Tadema was a leading painter of portraits and romantic scenes of classical antiquity.
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RIBA Library Drawings and Archives Collections
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