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)