Simeon Solomon

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Simeon Solomon
Simeon Solomon in Oriental costume, a photograph by David Wilkie Wynfield
Born9 October 1840
Died14 August 1905 (aged 64)
EducationCarey's Art Academy (1852)
Royal Academy, London
Known forPainter

Simeon Solomon (9 October 1840 – 14 August 1905) was a British painter associated with the Pre-Raphaelites who was noted for his depictions of Jewish life[1] and same-sex desire.[2][3] His career was cut short as a result of public scandal following his arrests and convictions for attempted sodomy in 1873 and 1874.[4]


Sappho and Erinna in a Garden at Mytilene, 1864
Watercolour on paper, Tate Britain

Solomon was born into a prominent Jewish family. He was the eighth and last child born to merchant Michael (Meyer) Solomon and artist Catherine (Kate) Levy. Solomon was a younger brother to fellow painters Abraham Solomon (1824–1862) and Rebecca Solomon (1832–1886).

Born and educated in London, Solomon started receiving lessons in painting from his older brother around 1850. He started attending Carey's Art Academy in 1852. His older sister first exhibited her works at the Royal Academy during the same year.

As a student at the Royal Academy Schools, Solomon was introduced through Dante Gabriel Rossetti to other members of the Pre-Raphaelite circle, as well as the poet Algernon Charles Swinburne and the painter Edward Burne-Jones in 1857. His first exhibition was at the Royal Academy in 1858. He continued to hold exhibitions of his work at the Royal Academy between 1858 and 1872. In addition to the literary paintings favoured by the Pre-Raphaelite school, Solomon's subjects often included scenes from the Hebrew Bible and genre paintings depicting Jewish life and rituals. His association with Swinburne led to his illustrating Swinburne's controversial novel Lesbia Brandon in 1865.[5]

In 1873, Simeon was arrested for soliciting in public toilets and having sex with a 60-year-old stableman named George Roberts. Both men were charged with indecent exposure and an attempt to commit buggery. Both were found guilty, fined £100 and sentenced to 18 months hard labour.[4][6] He was arrested again in 1874 in Paris on a similar charge, after which he was sentenced to spend three months in prison.[6][7][8][9]

After his prosecutions he no longer exhibited, but his work was collected by such figures as Oscar Wilde, John Addington Symonds, Count Eric Stenbock, and Walter Pater.[10]

In 1884, he was admitted to the workhouse where he continued to produce work, but his life and talent were blighted by alcoholism. Twenty years later in 1905, he died from complications brought on by his alcoholism. He was buried at the Jewish Cemetery in Willesden.

Examples of his work are on permanent display at the Victoria and Albert Museum, Wightwick Manor in Wolverhampton, and at Leighton House in west London. Retrospectives of his work have been held at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery in 2005–6, and in London at the Ben Uri Gallery in 2006.



  • Paintings and Drawings by the Late Simeon Solomon, Baillie Gallery, 54 Baker St, London. 9 December 1905 – 13 January 1906
  • Winter Exhibition of Works of the Old Masters and Deceased Masters of the British School, Royal Academy, London. 1 January–10 March 1906
  • Exhibition of Jewish Art and Antiquities, Whitechapel Art Gallery. 7 November–16 December 1906
  • Exeter Museum and Art Gallery. April 1906


  • Jewish Exhibition, Gallery of Ancient and Modern Art, Berlin


  • Whitechapel Art Gallery. March 1908
  • Franco-British Exhibition, London. July–August 1908


  • Pre-Raphaelite Painters from Collections in Lancashire, Tate Britain, London. 17 July 1913 – 28 September 1913[11]


  • National Gallery of British Art (Tate). July 1923


  • Jewish Art, Ben Uri Gallery. May 1934


  • Subjects of Jewish Interest, Ben Uri Gallery. December 1946


  • Exhibition of English Watercolours, Leger Galleries


  • Exhibition of English Watercolours 18th & 19th Century, Leger Galleries


  • Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings by Simeon Solomon, Durlacher Brothers Gallery, 538 Madison Ave, NYC. In May the exhibition moved to Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA. April–May 1966


  • Acquisitions of the Friends of the Art Museums of Israel, Ben Uri Gallery. March 1985
  • Solomon: A family of painters—Abraham Solomon, 1823-1862, Rebecca Solomon, 1832-1886, Simeon Solomon, 1840-1905. Geffrye Museum, London, 8 November–31 December 1985; Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, 18 January–9 March 1986


  • From Prodigy to Outcast: Simeon Solomon, Pre-Raphaelite Artist, Jewish Museum, London. March 2001–May 2001


  • Solomon Art Exhibition, Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery. April 2002–June 2002


  • Love Revealed: Simeon Solomon and the Pre-Raphaelites, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. 1 October 2005 – 15 January 2006
  • Waking Dreams: The Art of the Pre-Raphaelites from the Delaware Art Museum, Various Locations in the UK and USA. 19 March 2005 – 29 July 2007


  • Love Revealed: Simeon Solomon and the Pre-Raphaelites, Museum Villa Stuck, Munich. 9 March–18 June 2006
  • Love Revealed: Simeon Solomon and the Pre-Raphaelites, Ben Uri Gallery, The London Jewish Museum of Art. 11 September–26 November 2006[12]


  • Blake's Shadow: William Blake and his Artistic Legacy, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester. 26 January 2008 – 20 April 2008


  • The Pre-Raphaelites and Italy, Museo d'Arte della città di Ravenna, Ravenna, Italy. 28 February 2010 – 6 June 2010
  • The Pre-Raphaelites and Italy, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. 15 September 2010 – 5 December 2010[13]



In literature[edit]

In Oscar Wilde's long prison letter to Lord Alfred Douglas, De Profundis, Wilde writes of his bankruptcy: "That all my charming things were to be sold: my Burne-Jones drawings: my Whistler drawings: my Monticelli: my Simeon Solomons: my china: my Library…"

See also[edit]

References and sources[edit]

  1. ^ Cohen, Richard I.Jewish Icons: Art and Society in Modern Europe, University of California Press, 1998, p. 160.
  2. ^ Cruise, Colin, ed., Love Revealed: Simeon Solomon and the Pre-Raphaelites, London: Merrell, 2005, p. 9.
  3. ^ Seymour, Gayle M. Simeon Solomon and the Biblical Construction of Marginal Identity in Victorian England, Journal of Homosexuality, Volume 33, Issue 3–4, 1997.
  4. ^ a b Villarreal, Daniel (25 October 2017). "Let's Examine 150 Years of Men Cruising Public Restrooms (and Its Social Consequences)". Hornet Stories. Retrieved 20 August 2018.
  5. ^ Peter Horne, Reina Lewis, Outlooks: lesbian and gay sexualities and visual cultures, Routledge, 1996, ISBN 0-415-12468-9, p. 70.
  6. ^ a b William A. Peniston, "Pederasts and others: urban culture and sexual identity in nineteenth-century Paris", Haworth gay & lesbian studies, Routledge, 2004, ISBN 1-56023-486-5, pp. 77–78.
  7. ^ Lockard, Ray Anne (2002), "Solomon, Simeon",, archived from the original on 12 February 2007, retrieved 19 September 2007
  8. ^ Michael Matthew Kaylor, "Secreted Desires: The Major Uranians: Hopkins, Pater and Wilde", Michael Matthew Kaylor, 2006, ISBN 80-210-4126-9, p. 81.
  9. ^ Jeffrey Merrick, Bryant T. Ragan, "Homosexuality in modern France", Studies in the history of sexuality, Oxford University Press US, 1996, ISBN 0-19-509303-8, p. 134.
  10. ^ Kaylor, Michael Matthew, Secreted Desires: The Major Uranians - Hopkins, Pater and Wilde, Masaryk University, Brno: 2006, p. 82 Note 1.
  11. ^ "Pre-Raphaelite Painters from Collections in Lancashire | Tate". Retrieved 22 May 2016.
  12. ^ McKenzie, Janet (13 December 2005). "Love Revealed: Simeon Solomon and the Pre-Raphaelites, Studio International". Studio International – Visual Arts, Design and Architecture. Retrieved 22 May 2016.
  13. ^ "Posthumous Exhibitions". Simeon Solomon Research Archive. Retrieved 22 May 2016.
  • Geoffrey Wigoder, "Everyman's Judaica: an encyclopedic dictionary", Keter Publishing House Jerusalem, 1975, ISBN 978-0-7065-1412-4, p. 562

Further reading[edit]

  • Colin Cruise et al. (ed), Love Revealed: Simeon Solomon and the Pre-Raphaelites, London: Merrett/Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, 2005, ISBN 1-85894-311-6
  • Simon Reynolds, The Vision of Simeon Solomon, Oak Knoll Press, 1984, ISBN 0-685-30068-4
  • Solomon: A family of painters: Abraham Solomon, 1823–1862, Rebecca Solomon, 1832–1886, Simeon Solomon, 1840–1905: Geffrye Museum, London, 8 November–31 December 1985 [and] Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery 18 January–9 March 1986, Inner London Education Authority, 1986, ISBN 0-7085-9968-0

External links[edit]