Simeon Solomon

A Youth Relating Tales to Ladies

1870

In Tate Britain
Artist
Simeon Solomon 1840–1905
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

Today, the intimately posed couples in this painting might suggest same-sex erotic relationships. This was not a reading made by art critics at the time. One reviewer in 1870 commented that the figures were ‘alarmingly lackadaisical’ and concluded that ‘these “tales” could not have sparkled with wit’. Three years after he painted this, Solomon was arrested and convicted for having sex with another man, which was illegal in Britain at the time. From then on he and his work were associated with same-sex desire and he was shunned by many of his art world colleagues. He continued to paint, however, and his work formed an important part of the emerging queer visual culture of the late 19th century.

Gallery label, August 2018

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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