Monday 5 November 2012

Heritage Spotlight - Simeon Solomon Research Archive

While I was in London this summer visiting the Diamond Jubilee and Paralympics I took the opportunity to do some sightseeing. My brother and I chose a route from St Pancras to Buckingham Palace which took us along Gower Street. One of my favourite subjects is Pre-Raphaelite art. I am a member of the Pre-Raphaelite Society and the last big exhibition I worked on at Nottingham Castle was the major Pre-Raphaelite exhibition of works from the Delaware Art Museum called “Waking Dreams”.

Gower Street was where the Pre-Raphaelite movement was formed, there is even a blue plaque on the wall of the house (the photo was taken by my brother Steve).

It is only in the 1990s that I leant that one of the artists in Pre-Raphaelite circles was gay – Simeon Solomon. He also lived on Gower Street for a while, working in the studio of his brother Abraham. His is one whose work I found particularly find visually appealing before I discovered his sexuality. In 2002 I went to see “Love Revealed”, the special exhibition of his work at the Birmingham museum and art gallery.

Simeon Solomon - self portrait 1859
Perhaps because of Simeon’s imprisonment for homosexuality in 1873 his work was deliberately under-noticed by the art world. Thankfully, since the growth of gender studies in the 1970s, the acceptance of artists’ sexuality, and a resurgence of Pre-Raphaelite art, Simeon’s work is now reaching a wider and more appreciative audience. I hope I can do the same by pointing people in the direction of the Simeon Solomon Research Archive – the SSRA – at this website.

The SSRA was the brainchild of Roberto C. Ferrari in 2000. Roberto became interested in Simeon Solomon in the same way as many other students, including myself – through research into more well-known members of the Pre-Raphaelite circles. Since “discovering” Simeon, Roberto has become an unofficial champion of this under-rated and overlooked Victorian artist.

The original website was Roberto’s attempt to bring Simeon to a wider audience and out of the art world. It was established to encourage interest and further research into Simeon’s life and works. This followed hot on the heels of Roberto’s published annotated bibliography in “The Journal of Pre-Raphaelite Studies” in spring 1999. The website quickly became popular among academics and art lovers alike.

The website you can visit today is a revamped version of the original. Much more research and resources have become available since the original launch, making it necessary for the SSRA website to be redesigned. In this Roberto Ferrari was assisted by Carolyn Conroy. Carolyn earned her doctorate with a thesis on Simeon’s life and work after his arrest for homosexuality, doing a lot of research from Roberto’s original website. Carolyn and Roberto worked on the new website together and it was launched in September 2010. Carolyn is also currently Assistant Professor of Art History in the Department of Art at Wake University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

The new website also includes information on Abraham and Rebecca Solomon, Simeon’s brother and sister who were also artists. Examples of all the Solomon siblings’ work is on the site as well as information on their exhibitions.

I have visited the SSRA website several times when looking for images to put on the living room wall, and for research prior to the big Pre-Raphaelite exhibition at Nottingham Castle.

I recommend this site to anyone interested in the Pre-Raphaelites in general, and to anyone interested in gender studies and art. In the words of Roberto C. Ferrari himself : “It is my hope that with the publication of this website more individuals can learn to appreciate and respect Solomon, and perhaps more research can be conducted on this figure who still eludes art historians and Victorian scholars unsure of where he fits in the milieu of his time”.

No comments:

Post a Comment