Simeon Solomon was a friend and associate of Rossetti and Burne-Jones, who is said to have described him as 'the greatest artist of us all: we are all schoolboys compared with you.' Solomon enjoyed early success but his career was effectively destroyed in 1873 when his homosexuality became public knowledge.
In 'Night and Sleep' Solomon symbolically expressed Sleep as a male head with poppies and wings at the brow to the left, and Night as a watchful yet sad female head whose drapery gently enfolds the two. This work is typical of the intensely personal, visionary chalk drawings which Solomon produced during his later years.
The imagery of these works often derives from Solomon's prose poem, 'A Vision of Love Revealed in Sleep.' In this case the figures of Night and Sleep recall this passage from the poem:
'Again I raised my eyes, and saw her [Night] who had lately been revealed to us receiving the passing breath of Day; with unrelaxing gaze, and eyes from whose depths comes forth all gentleness, she watched Sleep, her beloved son; and she, to whom all was an open scroll, wept when she looked upon him whose heart was as the heart of a child.'