Cabinet Pictures, Sketches, And Drawings

Not actually the Academy, but not everyone liked Simeon! From The Times, 24 November 1859:

Cabinet Pictures, Sketches, And Drawings

In the dearth of more pretending picture shows this little winter exhibition, which has just been opened at 120, Pall Mall, comes, like the chrysanthemum blooms, as a pleasant reminder that Art, as well as Nature, can be productive even tinder the frost and mists of November. The works shown are small in dimensions, unambitious in character, and in number just sufficient to occupy the line of sight in Mr Gambart’s commodious gallery …

For an illustration, however, of the extreme length to which quaint ugliness can be carried, we must go to works of a very young pre-Raffaelite—nay, almost pre-historical artist—Mr Simeon Solomon, whose rare facility in designing accessories and whose determined pursuit of the Ninevitish in local colour give his drawings and pictures a character absolutely their own, in spite of Mr Solomon’s obvious debt to the influence of Mr Rosetti. Nothing uglier was surely ever conceived than the drawing in which Mr Solomon has recorded the first introduction of the boy Dante to the child Beatrice*. Mr Solomon’s large picture of David playing before Saul sins less egregiously in this respect, especially as we have no right to look for a beauty in the Israelitish monarch possessed by his raging demon. Here, too, we have an admirable illustration of the determined precision of Mr Solomon’s invention in architecture, furniture, and dress, based doubtless on archaic reading, but rising from books and stones to a height of realism to which no reading could have carried any but a very original and singularly constituted mind. Mr Solomon is of course a Jew, and it is satisfactory to note his marked national bent at a time when national bents in art are hardly traceable. If Mr Solomon can conquer his besetting sins of ugliness, and if his nationalism be more than affectation, he may educate into power a gift which at present produces little beyond singularity.

*Describing Dante’s first meeting with Beatrice, 1859-63 in Tate Britain, it is currently exhibited at the Tate Britain exhibition Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde (12 September 2012-13 January 2013) and was previously at the Ashmolean, Oxford, in 1910.

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