Simeon Solomon, Bacchus
Solomon Simeon Bacchus
This useful biographical sketch comes from
Simeon Solomon, an orthodox Jew, was an admirer of Rossetti’s late aesthetic period. He entered the Royal Academy School in 1855 and exhibited his first picture there in 1860. He was quickly befriended by Rossetti, Burne-Jones and the poet, Algernon Swinburne, along with other members of the Pre-Raphaelite circle. During the 1860s he produced a number of fine drawings, gouaches and oil paintings, mainly of religious subjects, especially depicting Jewish ritual, but also classical and allegorical subjects which combine Pre-Raphaelite and aesthetic ideas in a highly individual way. Although Solomon’s pictures owe much to Rossetti and Burne-Jones, especially his allegorical female figures, they have a strong individuality which makes them instantly recognizable.
Solomon’s career disintegrated when, in February 1873, he was arrested for homosexual offences, after which he was completely shunned by all his former friends, including Swinburne. The remainder of Solomon’s career is one of the minor tragedies of the Pre-Raphaelite story. Made a complete social leper by the strength of the Victorian moral code, he steadily gave way to drink and dissipation, ending his days an alcoholic in the St. Giles Workhouse in 1905. During his last years he supported himself by making drawings and pastels.
Some of Solomon’s images are remarkable for their androgynous quality. Among other things, his work illustrates very well the transition from PreRaphaelitism to Decadence. Current interest in gender and sexuality has brought his work forward for serious attendion by a number of critics. See, for example, the Simeon Solomon Research Archive: .