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Solomon, Simeon (1840-1905)  
 
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During 1867, Solomon traveled to Italy as the lover of Oscar Browning, who was later to become headmaster of Eton and a don at Cambridge. The couple journeyed to Rome and Genoa again in 1870. While in the Mediterranean Simeon began to write his prose poem entitled A Vision of Love Revealed in Sleep.

The 1870 trip, however, ended on a regrettable note. According to written accounts of some friends, the couple left the country earlier than planned. The trip's abrupt end may have been caused by legal reasons related to their same-sex relationship. If that is true, it is no coincidence that Simeon's troubles with alcohol began around this time.

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The artist completed his prose poem when he returned to England, and it was privately published in 1871. The poem is a spiritual allegory that illuminates the iconography of Solomon's paintings and that may be read as a defense of homosexual relations. While the work won critical acclaim from John Addington Symonds, it was condemned by others and was never republished in England.

Solomon, however, continued to create art. He exhibited three works at the Dudley Gallery and drew a portrait of critic Walter Pater in 1872.

Then tragedy struck.

The artist was arrested on February 11, 1873 for having sex in a public lavatory with a sixty-year-old stableman, George Roberts. Both men were charged with indecent exposure and the attempt to commit "." They went to court thirteen days later, were judged guilty, fined one hundred pounds, and later sentenced to eighteen months in prison at hard labor.

At the intervention of a wealthy cousin, Meyer Solomon, the artist's sentence was reduced to police supervision. (Roberts was not so fortunate.)

Eager to escape the shame he felt, Solomon traveled to France for a time. However, he was arrested there on March 4, 1874 for the same reasons. The French court fined him sixteen francs and sentenced him to three months in prison. The nineteen-year-old man he was with received a lesser sentence.

After these legal experiences, the artist was never the same. Most London galleries, previous patrons, and former friends, including Swinburne, shunned him.

He did receive some support: some gallery owners gave him monetary advances, one former patron remained loyal, some friends assisted him, and his cousin Meyer Solomon commissioned several paintings from him.

Still, the artist remained depressed and became increasingly reliant on alcohol in an attempt to numb his shame and the pain of society's rejection.

Solomon's depression was exacerbated by the loss of his livelihood and the deaths of immediate family members. His older brother and first art teacher, Abraham, had already died at the age of thirty-nine in 1862, on the same day that he was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy. His older sister, Rebecca, a fellow artist, was in a fatal accident with a cab and died at the age of fifty-six on November 20, 1888. The following month his mother, also an artist, died of natural causes.

Solomon continued to paint well into the mid-1890s. The works of the later period of his life are expressive of his feelings of hopelessness, alienation, fear of rejection, and thoughts of death. These themes are signaled by the titles of the works: Love at the Waters of Oblivion (1891), Tormented Soul (1894), Death Awaiting Sleep (1896), and Twilight and Sleep (1897).

Simeon spent his final years living alternately in the St. Giles Workhouse and on the street. He often was reduced to begging.

He suffered a heart attack on May 25, 1905 and had a second one within three months. He died of heart failure aggravated by bronchitis and alcoholism on August 14, 1905.

Even though he had forsaken his Jewish faith, he was buried in Willesden Jewish Cemetery.

The London Times did not publish an obituary, but the artist was not entirely forgotten. He was honored with an exhibition of 122 works at the Baillie Gallery from December 9, 1905 until January 13, 1906. Also in 1906, Burlington House in London held a retrospective exhibition of Simeon's work, and sixteen of his pieces were included in the 37th Winter Exhibition of Works of the Old Masters and Deceased Masters of the British School held at the Royal Academy.

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