Estella Francis Solomons
Estella Francis Solomons (1882–1968) was one of the leading Irish artists of her generation.
Early life and family
She was born in Dublin, Ireland, the daughter of Maurice Solomons (1832–1922), and poet Rosa Jane Jacobs. Her father, an optician whose practice in 19 Nassau St., Dublin, is mentioned in Ulysses. Her family, the Solomons, who came to Dublin from England in 1824, are one of the oldest continuous lines of Jews in Ireland. Her grandmother Rosa Jacobs Solomons (1833–1926) who was born in Hull in England, was the author of a book called Facts and fancies (Dublin 1883). Estella's brother Bethel Solomons, a renowned physician, master of the Rotunda Hospital and Irish international rugby player, is mentioned in Finnegans Wake. Her brother Edwin (1879–1964) was a stockbroker and prominent member of the Dublin Jewish community. Her younger sister Sophie was a trained opera singer. A portrait of Sophie, by her cousin the printmaker Louise Jacobs, survives in the Estella Solomons archives in the Library of Trinity College Dublin.
In 1898, at the age of 16, she entered the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art where she won a significant prize. Her classmates included some who went on to become leading Irish artists including Mary Swanzy, Eva Hamilton (1876-1960) and William J. Leech (1881-1968).She also attended the Chelsea School of Art from 1903 - 1906. A visit to the tercentenary exhibition of the work of Rembrandt in Amsterdam in 1903 impacted her creative practice and may have influenced her adoption of printmaking as her principal vehicle of expression. She studied under two of Ireland's leading artists, Walter Osborne, who was another major influence, and William Orpen. With her friends Cissie Beckett (aunt of Samuel Beckett) and Beatrice Elvery, she went to study in Paris in Colorossi's studio. When she returned she exhibited in the Leinster Hall, Molesworth St., with contemporaries such as Beatrice Elvery, Eva Hamilton and Grace Gifford. Her work was also included in joint exhibitions with other artists at Mills Hall (1919, with Mary Duncan) and the Arlington Gallery, London (1935, with Louise Jacobs). She also exhibited at her Great Brunswick St. studio in December 1926.
Solomons illustrated Padraic Colum's The road round Ireland (1926) and DL Kelleher's The Glamour of Dublin in 1928. Originally published after the devastation of the 1916 Rising, the later edition features eight views of familiar locations in the city centre including Merchant's Arch and King's Inns. Her etching 'A Georgian Doorway' was included in Katherine MacCormack's Leabhar Ultuin in 1920. This publication featured illustrations by several prominent Irish artists and was sold in aid of the new children's hospital in Charlemont Street, Dublin that had been founded by two prominent members of Cumann na mBan, Kathleen Lynn and Madeleine ffrench-Mullen.
Solomons was elected an associate of the RHA in July 1925, but it was not until 1966 that she was elected an honorary member. Her work was included in the Academy's annual members’ exhibition every year for sixty years.
She joined the Ranelagh branch of Cumann na mBan about 1918 and was active in politics before and during the Irish war of independence. She took the republican side in the civil war and her studio was used as a safe house by republican volunteers. She married poet and publisher Seumas O'Sullivan (1879–1958) (real name James Sullivan Starkey) although her parents opposed the relationship as O'Sullivan was not of the Jewish faith. They married in 1929 after her parents had died. She collaborated with her husband in The Dublin Magazine (1923–1958), the renowned literary and art magazine, of which O'Sullivan was editor for 35 years. Solomons provided vital financial support to the magazine, particularly in sourcing advertising, which was difficult in the tough economic climate of the new Free State. She was helped in this endeavour by poet and writer, Kathleen Goodfellow, a lifelong friend, and the person who gifted the Morehampton Road Wildlife Sanctuary to the State. Goodfellow, who used the pseudonym Michael Scot, had joined Cumann na mBan at the same time as Solomons. Two of Solomons' portraits of Goodfellow are in the Model Niland Gallery in Sligo.
Works of Estella Solomon are held in the Niland Collection, at The Model gallery in County Sligo. Her archives, which include artwork and photographs (and prints by Louise Jacobs), and the archives of the Dublin Magazine are in the Library of Trinity College Dublin.
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