The Closing Door, Anna Alma-Tadema, watercolor and gouache, roughly 21 x 14 in. (52 x 35 cm). Link is to previous sale on Christie’s; I don’t know the current location of the original.
Anna Alma-Tadema is often (if not always) overshadowed by the reputation of her more famous father, Lawrence Alma-Tadema, and unjustly so. The younger Alma-Tadema is a watercolorist with a high degree of skill and artistic sensibility.
In this scene, she creates an emotional moment that requires us to look closely into the painting to realise its depth. As the woman clutches both at her dress and at her necklace — her upturned face half vacant, half distressed — the shadowed door behind her is being pulled closed by a figure whose presence we only encounter by barely noticed hands on the door.
Rejection? The end of a love affair? Perhaps the flowers and writing materials on the deak give us additional clues. We’re left to compose our own story around the scene, but the sense of strained emotion is palpable.
Alma-Tadema’s other subjects were often room interiors, in which her eye for detail, surface texture and the subtle play of light were masterfully suggested in painstaking watercolor technique. Here, those skills offer a composed, elaborate setting for the moment — never distracting, but there for our visual pleasure as our eye travels to take in the entire scene.