Solomon Joseph Solomon RA PRBA (1860-1927)

Solomon J. Solomon

Solomon J. Solomon was a highly versatile artist who made pictures in many different styles, and was thus able to remain popular over a long period. He produced paintings on historical and contemporary themes, from myth and from reality, religious paintings, harem scenes, and many portraits. One of his best works is Samson and Delilah, showing a superbly horrible Delilah taunting the captured Samson by waving his cut lock of hair at him. On a classical theme is one of the best versions of Echo and Narcissus, a Judgement of Paris as an excuse for a study of a standing nude, another figure study in Psyche, and two more in Ajax and Cassandra. All these work better than The Birth of Love (1896), where a slightly ridiculous Aphrodite is perched precariously on a too-small sea shell, with fat-faced cherubs increasing the top-heavy look of the picture. Chivalry subjects include a singing knight with angel and cherub called Laus Deo which looks somewhat amusing to the modern eye. On religion, one of Solomon's best paintings is his Eve, which seems to me somewhat reminiscent of the Eve by Watts in its composition. Another Watts-like image is the allegorical Sacred and Profane Love, with a rather sculptural angel with chaste nudes sheltered under one wing, sneering down at a Bohemian couple lounging below.

Solomon also did Orientalist works, as in his One of the Harem of 1887, and was not above producing little girls in the late-Millais mould, such as At the Party. One of his important contemporary social scenes is Conversation Piece. He also did portraits, including dramatic theatrical ones.

Most of the work of Solomon seems to be buried away in reserve collections - at least I have not come across that much on view in the galleries where his pictures are supposed to be. However, Samson and Delilah is one of the big paintings oft on display in the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, and there is usually something by him hung in the Victorian gallery at the Tate. Abroad, Ajax and Cassandra is in the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery, Victoria, Australia.

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