Self-portrait of Solomon Hart, c. 1860
|Birth name||Solomon Alexander Hart|
|Field||Painting, drawing, engraving|
|Training||Royal Academy of Arts|
Solomon Alexander Hart (April 1806 – 11 June 1881) was a British painter and engraver. He was the first Jewish member of the Royal Academy in London and was probably the most important Jewish artist working in England in the 19th century.
He was born at Plymouth, the son of Samuel Hart, a Jewish goldsmith, engraver, and Hebrew teacher. He remained an observant Jew all his life. In 1820 he moved with his father to London, to be placed as a pupil with Charles Warren to study line engraving. Solomon began his studies by drawing classical sculpture at the British Museum, but had to support himself and his father by painting miniature copies and colouring theatrical prints in the evenings. In 1823 he was admitted to the Royal Academy Schools and began to exhibit there three years later. He became celebrated as a painter of historical scenes and characters.
In 1828, he exhibited an oil painting at the British Institution. It was favourably received, and from that time he devoted himself chiefly to historical and genre compositions. He at once achieved a reputation by some scenes from the Jewish ceremonial. Hart's early works include scenes like the well-received Interior of a Polish Synagogue (1830; Tate Britain). The sketch depicts the interior of Plymouth Synagogue, which was built in the early 1760s and is one of the oldest in Britain still standing.
However, hoping to be more than a painter of "merely religious ceremonies", Hart began to address historical and literary subjects, painting scenes from Scott and Shakespeare and the romantic episodes of history. His Royal Academy diploma work of 1838 was a late 16th-century scene showing figures listening attentively to a reading from the works of Shakespeare. Between 1845 and 1850, he returned to Jewish subjects.
He visited Italy in 1841–42, and made an elaborate series of drawings of historical sites and architectural interiors which he hoped to publish, notably Interior of a Church in Florence, Interior, St. Mark's, Venice, and The Feast of the Rejoicing of the Law.
He was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1835, and a Royal Academician on 10 February 1840, making him the first Jew to be thus honoured. Hart was an active member of the institution and by 1854 he had been appointed professor of painting, holding that office until 1863. His most influential contribution was as the Academy's librarian, a post he held from 1864 until his death, during which time he added over 2000 books to the collection.
- An Early Reading of Shakespeare, Oil on canvas (1838)
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- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Wood, James, ed. (1907). "article name needed". The Nuttall Encyclopædia. London and New York: Frederick Warne.
- "Obituary". Jewish Chronicle. 17 June 1881.
- Solomon Alexander Hart at the Royal Academy of Arts
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- Salaman, Malcolm (2005). Shakespeare in Pictorial Art. Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 1-4179-7027-8.
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- Sandby, William (1862). The History of the Royal Academy of Arts from Its Foundation in 1768 to the Present Time. Longman.
- Valentine, Helen (2004). "Hart, Solomon Alexander (1806–1881)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press.
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