Monday, February 9, 2015

Drawing of the Day: Simeon Solomon's "In the Temple of Venus," 1865

In the Temple of Venus
Simeon Solomon, c. 1865
The Victoria & Albert Museum

A head-and-shoulders portrait, this watercolor of a woman with ginger hair in a green gown immediately puts one in mind of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, however, the background of the piece with its loosely-drawn statuette and classical columns, is a far cry from the almost-photographic detail inherent in the work of Pre-Raphaelite artists.

This is the work of Simeon Solomon (1840-1905).  Solomon had long bemoaned that he never had been given a classical education and had no understanding of Latin and Greek.  He formed close friendships with the poet Algernon Swinburne, the Eton schoolmaster Oscar Browning, and the Oxford don Walter Pater, the great critic of the Italian Renaissance--thereby giving himself a chance to become deeply familiar with classical subjects.  

Simeon titled this piece, "In the Temple of Venus."  It's part of a series he painted during the middle part if the 1860s which subtly focussed on gay and lesbian themes, a study for which there was no name at the time.  

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