Deborah Solomon

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Deborah Solomon (born August 9, 1957, New York City) is an American art critic, journalist and biographer. Her weekly column, "Questions For" ran in The New York Times Magazine from 2003 to 2011. She is currently the art critic for WNYC Public Radio, the New York City affiliate of NPR.

Early life and education

Solomon was born in New York City and grew up in New Rochelle, New York. Her parents, Jerry and Sally Solomon, owned an art gallery. In an interview with Francis Ford Coppola, Solomon disclosed that her father was born in Romania and fled as a child in 1938.[1] She was educated at Cornell University, where she majored in art history and served as the associate editor of The Cornell Daily Sun. She earned a bachelor of arts degree in 1979. The following year, she received a master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Solomon was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2001 in the category of biography.[2]



Solomon began her career writing about art for various publications, including The New Criterion. For most of the 1990s, she served as the chief art critic of The Wall Street Journal. She has written extensively about American painting, and is the author of several biographies of American artists, including Jackson Pollock, Joseph Cornell, and Norman Rockwell.

On November 29, 2010, at the 92nd Street Y in New York, Solomon was scheduled to interview actor Steve Martin regarding his new novel, An Object of Beauty. Midway through the conversation, a Y representative handed Ms. Solomon a note asking her to talk more about Mr. Martin’s movie career. The next day, the Y issued an apology to audiences, along with an offer of gift certificates to future Y events to the 900 people who had attended.[3] In an op-ed piece in The New York Times, Martin praised Solomon as an "art scholar" and said he would have rather "died onstage with art talk" than with the movie trivia questions the Y had chosen for him.[4]

According to Kat Stoeffel in an opinion piece for The New York Observer, Solomon's weekly "Questions For" column "has been a slow-burning controversy since Ms. Solomon’s debut in 2003. Ms. Solomon’s editing practices (despite the weekly disclaimer) led some of her subjects–including Tim Russert, Ira Glass, and Amy Dickinson–to cry foul. But then some weeks’ interviews–Das Racist comes to mind–seemed to redeem the whole practice."[5]

On February 4, 2011, Solomon stepped down from writing her weekly column to write in house and continue her biography of Norman Rockwell. She was "encouraged by the paper’s top brass to continue writing for the paper" and has stated she will continue "asking as many impertinent questions as possible.”[5] In 2010, Solomon was ranked by the Daily Beast as one of "The Left's Top 25 Journalists."[6]

Norman Rockwell controversy

Solomon's book "American Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell" was published in 2013. The book was particularly controversial among readers and fellow writers regarding certain questions and assertions implicated throughout the book.[7] "Was Rockwell homosexual?" Solomon asks. "His first two marriages strike her as "less genuine unions than a strategy for ‘passing’ and controlling his homoerotic desires." Even though she finds "nothing to suggest that he ever had sex with men," she nonetheless believes that his expression of those imaginary desires still existed but were somehow "confined to his art." She envisions a "pattern of pedophilia" in Rockwell's images and in his recruitment of young models". [8]

Solomon's statements and opinions were repeated and supported by some publications, however, they have been challenged by others.[7] Patrick Toner of the Huffington Post described her book as "a dishonest picture of Rockwell's life--one that paints him as a pedophile who was so self-absorbed and withdrawn from his own family that he drove his first two wives (and one of his boy models) to suicide".[7] Toner does recognize in his review that, "some commentators are pretending that the controversy is quite different. Some will tell you that Solomon has presented an honest picture of Rockwell's life--one that doesn't accept the airbrushed, spic and span image of Rockwell that many people seem to take for granted--and that Rockwell's family and fans are responding hatefully, angrily, or otherwise purely emotionally to this honest picture. Solomon herself and various Solomon backers, such as Laurie Norton Moffatt, director of the Norman Rockwell Museum, or Alan Bisbort say this sort of thing."[7]

Garrison Keillor said, "[Solomon] does seem awfully eager to find homoeroticism — poor Rockwell cannot go on a fishing trip without his biographer finding sexual overtones." [9]

Rockwell's family members and people who knew him have rejected Solomon's portrait of the artist. Thomas Rockwell, the artist's son, told The Boston Globe that "The biography is so poor and so inflammatory, we just had to respond." He said "It’s being presented as the definitive biography and it’s so wrong, we just felt we had to correct the record." Eighty year old Thomas Rockwell concluded by saying "This is our last word. We are no longer going to participate in the drama Solomon has created" [10]

Personal life

Solomon is married to Kent Sepkowitz, an infectious-disease specialist and the Deputy Physician-in-Chief at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and frequent contributor to various publications.[11] They have two sons.

Awards and Honors



  1. ^ Solomon, Deborah (December 16, 2007). "Questions For". New York Times. Retrieved March 26, 2015. 
  2. ^ "Guggenheim Fellowship recipients list". Retrieved March 26, 2015. 
  3. ^ Lee, Felicia (December 1, 2010). "Comedian Conversation Falls Flat at 92nd Street Y". New York Times. Retrieved March 26, 2015. 
  4. ^ Martin, Steve (December 4, 2010). "The Art of Interruption". New York Times. Retrieved March 26, 2015. 
  5. ^ a b Stoeffel, Kat (Feb 4, 2011). "Deborah Solomon Out at New York Times Magazine". The New York Observer. Retrieved March 27, 2015. 
  6. ^ "The Left's Top 25 Journalists". The Daily Beast. 2010. Retrieved March 26, 2015. 
  7. ^ a b c d Toner, Patrick (January 13, 2014). "On Deborah Solomon's Norman Rockwell". Huffington Post. Retrieved March 26, 2015. 
  8. ^ Benfey, Christopher (December 19, 2013). "An American Romantic". New York Review of Books. Retrieved March 26, 2015. 
  9. ^ Garrison, Kellior (December 19, 2013). "Norman Rockwell, the Storyteller". New York Times. Retrieved March 26, 2015. 
  10. ^ "Family of Norman Rockwell skewers new biography". The Boston Globe. December 29, 2013. Retrieved March 26, 2015. 
  11. ^ "Articles by Kent Sepkowitz". The Daily Beast. Retrieved March 26, 2015. 

External links