Abraham Solomon RA (1824-1862)

Abraham Solomon was a successful Victorian painter specialising in contemporary social scenes and in other genre. His younger brother was the Pre-Raphaelite painter Simeon Solomon, and his sister Rebecca Solomon was also a notable painter.

Abraham Solomon was born in London in 1824, and studied at the Bloomsbury School from 1824, under Sass and then Cary. In 1839 he entered the Academy Schools, and he contributed to the Academy Exhibitions from 1843. Many of his paintings are illustrations of literature, historical and contemporary, and tend to have long, meandering descriptive titles. His reputation was established with two contemporary scenes outside a courtroom: Waiting for the Verdict and The Acquittal (Not Guilty), showing a gloomy family transformed into a happy one. These were painted in 1859, and the former picture caused a great conflict. Many interior scenes show such simple themes as A Loving Mother and A Lady Going Out Riding, and among his more successful early pictures are The Sailor Boy's Departure (1854) and a pair of pictures entitled Too Truthful (1850), showing an artist painting unhappily honest portraits of unlovely people. His most well-known paintings are two scenes on a train: First Class and Second Class, both in the Southampton Art Gallery. These and many other pictures were made into prints for the public to buy.

While much applauded and approved of by the public, he received the occasional put-down from the critics. Of his picture The Lion in Love, showing an old soldier wooing a young woman, the Art Journal said:

We candidly admit our regret at seeing this picture, and still more so to find it some time afterwards engraved, and so circulated over the country. Mr Solomon unquestionably made a mistake here, if Art is to subserve any good purpose.

Solomon's technique of painting is very accomplished, and his draughtsmanship good. However, as noted by the Art Journal critic, "it seems a pity that one who can delineate character of his own creation so skilfully ... should look for his subject matter elsewhere." This leaves his work as genre - good of its type, but not rising above it to something more thoughtful.

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