- Also known as
primary name: Solomon, Simeon
- individual; painter/draughtsman; British; Male
- Life dates
- Draughtsman illustrator, painter; brother of Abraham and Rebecca Solomon.
Simeon Solomon forms a link between Pre-Raphaelitism and the 'Aesthetic' and 'Decadent' movements of the later nineteenth century. His family were orthodox Jews, and among his early works, foreshadowing his later fascination with ritual and hieratic ceremonial, was a series of illustrations of Jewish religious rites in present-day settings ('Once a Week', 1862). By about 1860 he had become one of the Pre-Raphaelite circle. Drawings like 'Dante's First Meeting with Beatrice', dated 1859-63 (Tate Gallery; Tate Exh., 1984, no. 228), and 'The Painter's Pleasaunce', datable c.1861-2 (see 1954,0508.17), were inspired by Rossetti in subject and treatment, but the titles of his exhibits at the Royal Academy between 1858 and 1864 show that at first his preferred subjects were from the Old Testament (cf. 1954,0508.20, 1954,0508.19) or of Jewish ceremonial. In 1872 the painting 'Habet!', of Roman ladies watching a gladiatorial combat, marks the beginning of a shift of interest towards classical history and mythology, encouraged by his friendship with the poet Swinburne. Other influences on his later style were the androgynous sentiment of such Italian Renaissance masters as Leonardo da Vinci and his followers Boltraffio and Luini, and the contemporary French 'Symbolist' school of Gustave Moreau (see 1922,0408.1). In 1871 he published a long, rhapsodic prose poem 'A Vision of Love Revealed in Sleep', in a style perhaps inspired by another literary friend, Walter Pater. It was reviewed by Swinburne, who wrote: "I have heard him likened to Heine as a kindred Hellenist of the Hebrews; Grecian form and beauty divide the allegiance of his spirit with Hebrew shadow and majesty".
In 1873 Solomon was convicted of a homosexual offence, with the result that he became a 'non-person'. For more than thirty years, unrepentant and incorrigible, he led a jovial, drunken existence on the fringe of the London underworld, sometimes earning a few shillings as a pavement artist or by turning out perfunctory drawings of idealised androgynous heads in red chalk. Had he not fallen from grace in the way he did, there would inevitably have been a full-scale biography enriched with reminiscences and information from his friends. Given the wide range of his contacts in artistic and literary circles, this would have been a valuable addition to Pre-Raphaelite literature; as it is, the few references to him in memoirs and letters are brief and embarrassed.
Solomon's last exhibit at the Royal Academy was in 1872: 'Judith and her attendant going to the Assyrian camp' (no.665), present location unknown.
- R K Engen, 'Dictionary of Victorian Wood Engravers', 1985
'Solomon: A Family of Painters', Geffrye Museum, London and Birmingham M& AG, exh. cat. 1985-6 with essays on Abraham, Rebecca and Simeon, by various
Cruise C., ' Love Revealed: Simeon Solomon and the Pre-Raphaelites' London: Merrell Publishers, 2005 (to accompany exhibition in Birmingham and Munich)
See review by Janet McKenzie in 'The Studio' 13/12/05 link: http://www.studio-international.co.uk/painting/love_revealed.asp