14 January 2011

Simeon Solomon: The Rise and Fall of an Artist



Simeon Solomon (1840-1905) was a British painter associated with the Pre-Raphaelites and the Aesthetic Movement. For a time his work was dismissed because of his "degenerate habits"; he is now celebrated for his accomplishments as well as for being a gay man living in Victorian England. Born in London to an artistic Jewish family he attended Royal Academy Schools where he became known for his remarkable paintings of Old Testament subjects. There he met Pre-Raphaelite artists Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Edward Burne-Jones along with their creative circle.

Through this group he was introduced to the poet Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909) who influenced him with his love of classicism and erotica. Solomon illustrated Swinburn's pornographic novel Lesbia Brandon and his ode to flagellation, The Flogging-Block. He was also informed by the classical world he saw on his visits to Italy and used allegory and personification in his art. In 1873, at the height of his popularity he was arrested at a public urinal in London for attempting to commit sodomy and fined £100. The following year he was arrested in Paris on a similar charge. This time he was sentenced to three months in prison.

As a result of the scandal his influential friends shunned him including Swinburne with whom he once romped naked at Rossetti's home. By 1884 Solomon was living in a workhouse and died as a pauper from a heart failure as a result of alcoholism. He is shown at a happier time in Oriental costume photographed by David Wilkie Wynfield (1837-1887).

9 comments:

  1. Excellent. You hear so little of Solomon, compared to his peers. Thanks!

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  2. I knew, but had forgotten, about Simeon Solomon's story - and a sad one it is. Swinburne's actions, I think, were and remain pretty typical. Thank you for reminding us of Solomon.

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  3. An unfortunate example of the struggle for identity synthesis/integration in the Victorian Era. I have yet to read of one in that age that ended happily, although my guess is that those stories of success were a success in large measure because they were kept hidden.

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  4. Hi Blue, Solomon's story is new to me even though I have been a Pre-Raphaelite fanatic for thirty years. It just shows how subjective history is. I think Swinburn's actions interesting given the ambiguity of his own sexuality.

    Thank you John!

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  5. Leonard D Greco Jr16 January, 2011 10:52

    I love Solomon , and in agreement with John, I never hear enough about him, even Ricketts & Shannon receive more attention. Is it because he was both a Jew and gay, or was his work just too fey and lightweight? He is like Denton Welch to me, he chronicled delicate moments, i love his image of the moon.

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  6. Solomons works of art are stunning!Very interesting background Kendra, and much of what ocurred I do believe was due to the era in which he lived.

    Come and join in my Gorgeous Giveaway from Blydesign!

    xoxo
    Karena
    Art by Karena

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  7. Thank you for introducing me to Solomon Kendra.

    It is always sad when someone's sexual preferences become public and scandalous to ruin the future of an amazing talent.

    Cheers,

    Claudia

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  8. You are welcome Claudia, what is sad is his contributions were obscured until recently. Kind regards, Kendra

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