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A fine painter in the Academic style, Solomon was co-founder of the Society of Portrait Painters, a founder member and first President of the Maccabeans, and later Head of the Art Committee of the Jewish Education Aid Society, which organised loans to help the majority of the Whitechapel Boys to attend the Slade School of Art. In 1906 Solomon became only the second Jewish Royal Academician and was President of the Ben Uri from 1924–26. Solomon was well-known for his historical and biblical works and for his society portraiture. His annual contributions to the Royal Academy Exhibition were hung in what came to be known as ‘Solomon’s corner.’ Although a practising Jew, he rarely painted works with overtly Jewish themes, though he did make portraits of some of the leading Jewish figures of the day.

During the First World War Solomon pioneered camouflage work for tanks and aeroplanes, sometimes in the thick of the fighting, despite being 54 at the outbreak of hostilities. In addition, he also sculpted dummy heads to attract fire in order to locate snipers and developed hollow, metal and bark-covered Observational Post Trees, where lookouts could hide along the front line. After the war, he continued painting portraits until his death in 1927.

Solomon’s richly-decorated interior of the family bungalow at Birchington, Kent (where his brother-in-law Delissa Joseph, had built him a second studio) depicts his wife Ella and youngest daughter Iris (later the Hon Mrs Ewen Montagu) in the comfortable intimacy of the breakfast room. Iris is denoted only by her hand holding the newspaper and her dangling leg with its fashionable shoe. On the wall behind a selection of paintings by Solomon includes one of his older daughter, Mary, on her pony (the landscape is by another painter). Solomon’s tasteful and opulent breakfast room reveals the extent of his identification with English life; the only reference to his Jewish origins is the two candlesticks upon the mantelpiece.

The Ben Uri Collection features six works by Solomon, including the magnificent portrait of Mary, The Field: The Artist’s Daughter on a Pony, which was presented by his widow in 1937.

Details

  • Title: The Breakfast Table
  • Creator: Solomon J. Solomon
  • Date: 1921
  • Date Created: 1921
  • Physical Dimensions: 69 x 50.5 cm
  • Provenance: A bequest of Mrs Margaret Manser (the artist's grand-daughter) 2002, Ben Uri Collection
  • Type: painting
  • Medium: oil on canvas

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