Liebe im Herbst


Love In Autumn, 1866


Simeon Solomon was the youngest of eight children in an orthodox Jewish family in the East End of London; his brother Abraham and his sister Rebecca were also artists. After early training at Leigh's and Cary's academies, he entered the Royal Academy Schools in 1855 and there formed a sketching club with three contemporaries - Henry Holiday, Albert Moore and Marcus Stone. A lively, precocious youth, he met with Rossetti and Burne-Jones about 1858, by which time he was already producing highly-finished drawings and watercolours in the Pre-Raphaelite style, generally illustrative of Hebraic history and ritual; between him and Edward Burne-Jones, there was a good deal of mututal influence.

He exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1858 - 1872 and was a regular contributor to the Dudley Gallery from 1865. During the 1860s, he was involved in the revival of book illustration, did decorative work for William Morris and William Burges and - fatally for someone of his temperament - became closely associated with a group of men formulating the ideals of the Asthetic Movement, notably Swinburne and Pater. Under their influence, he turned to classical themes, and between 1866 and 1870 he paid three visits to Italy, where he was much influenced by Leonardo and his school. In Rome in 1869 he wrote the prose poem A Vision of Love Revealed in Sleep on the platonic theme of the fulfillment of the soul through earthly love; this was publisehd two years later and warmly reviewed by Swinburne and J.A. Symonds.

One of Solomon's most beautiful and haunting works, Love In Autumn was painted during his visit to Florence to study the Old Masters in 1866. It is characteristic of this period when, like so many artists in his circle, he found himself attracted to pagan and classical themes; but its real subject is one to which he often returned, the vulnerability of love. As Simon Reynolds observes, it anticipates a passage in his above-mentioned prose poem A Vision ...

A watercolour sketch for the picture shows that Solomon originally thought of inroducing a temple in the middle-distance on the right.

In February 1873, Solomon's career collapsed when he was arrested and convicted for homosexual offences. He never regained his position in respectable society, or apparently wished to, preferring to live the life of a vagabond and alcoholic. However, he continued to work, producing large numbers of watercolours and chalk drawings with symbolist themes.

(this text is an excerpt from the catalogue "The Last Romantics - The Romantic Tradition in British Art", edited by John Christian)