Biography for Simeon Solomon
Artist. Born into a prosperous Jewish family, Solomon followed his brother, Abraham (1823-1862), and sister, Rebecca (1832-1886), in pursuing a career as an artist. He trained in his brother's studio, at F. S. Cary's Academy and at the Royal Academy Schools which he entered aged fifteen. Initially Solomon enjoyed success with his paintings and drawings of Old Testament subjects. Magazine editors commissioned illustrations of Jewish customs and rituals from him.
Solomon became known as a Pre-Raphaelite through his friendships with Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882) and Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898). With several other artists in the Pre-Raphaelite circle he contributed to Dalziels' Bible Gallery, William Burges' (1827-1881) 'Great Bookcase' and decorative work for Morris Marshall Faulkner & Co. For examples of Solomon's work with Pre-Raphaelite characteristics in the Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery Collection see 'The Death of Sir Galahad' (c.1857) and 'Ruth, Naomi and the Child Obed' (1860).
During the 1860s Solomon became friends with the poet, Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909) and the Oxford scholar, Walter Pater (1839-1894), the first writers in England to promote 'art for art's sake'. The new Aesthetic ideas influenced Solomon's work as well as three trips which he made to Italy (1866, 1869, 1870) where he saw Renaissance painting. His range of subjects increased and included Christian and Classical themes. From the late 1860s many of Solomon's images are connected to his prose poem 'A Vision of Love Revealed in Sleep' published in 1871.
In 1873 Solomon was arrested in a public lavatory in London with another man and charged with indecent exposure and 'attempting to commit sodomy'. He did not receive a jail sentence, but as news of the incident spread the artistic community distanced itself from him. Solomon's work was exhibited from time to time after the scandal, but not at the Royal Academy and the Dudley Gallery, London, where he had been a regular contributor. He continued to draw and paint, selling his work privately often in the form of photographic prints by Frederick Hollyer (1838-1933).
Growing poverty, an unwillingness to depend on the charity of family and friends, and an increasing dependence on alcohol led to Solomon spending his last years in a London workhouse. The drawings of Solomon's final years focus on human faces and share some of the preoccupations of the Continental Symbolists. After over thirty years as a virtual outcast Solomon died of heart failure on 14 August 1905.
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