Simeon Solomon

A Youth Relating Tales to Ladies

1870

On display at Tate Britain

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 355 x 534 mm
frame: 460 x 635 x 45 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by the Kretschmer family in accordance with the wishes of William Kretchmer 1983
Reference
T03702

Display caption

The type of frieze-like arrangement of figures in a shallow space seen in this picture occurs in a number of Solomon’s works and may owe something to the example of his friend Albert Moore and the aesthetic movement. This style reflected a desire to move away from narrative or moral content and to focus instead on pure beauty, compositional balance and ‘art for art’s sake’. Here the listeners wear Regency-style dress rather than classical robes.

Gallery label, November 2016

Catalogue entry

T03702 A YOUTH RELATING TALES TO LADIES 1870

Oil on canvas 14 × 21 (355 × 534)
Inscribed ‘SS|1870’ at right (initials in monogram)
Presented by the Kretschmer family in accordance with the wishes of William Kretchmer 1983
Prov: ...; Victor Coverley Price, from whom bt by the Fine Art Society Ltd 1963 and sold to William Kretchmer 1968
Exh: RA 1870 (77)

The type of frieze-like arrangement of figures in a shallow space which is seen in this picture occurs in a number of Solomon's works of the 1865–70 period and may owe something to the example of Albert Moore. Rather than classical drapes, however, Solomon clothes his figures in vaguely Regency style or in fancy dress of his own invention. As in the work of Moore, Whistler and other ‘Aesthetic’ artists of the 1860s and 1870s, narrative is at a discount. The ‘youth’ in Solomon's painting seems hardly to have the energy for even the slight activity demanded of him by the title. One reviewer of the 1870 RA exhibition found the work ‘alarmingly lackadaisical’ and concluded that ‘these “tales” could not have sparkled with wit’ (Art Journal, 1870, p.163). Another was, perhaps surprisingly, reminded of Stothard (Athenaeum, 28 May 1870, pp.713–14).

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1982-84: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1986

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