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Samson by Solomon J. Solomon: Victorian academy and Jewish identity

Irit Miller

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Jewish Historical Studies, volume 42, 2009 Samson by Solomon J. Solomon: Victorian academy and Jewish identity IRIT MILLER Samson, a monumental painting (244 x 366 cms, plate 1) by the Anglo Jewish artist Solomon Joseph Solomon (1860-1927), was exhibited at the annual exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts in London in 1887.1 It depicts the dramatic climax to the biblical account of Samson's relationship with Delilah, when he discovers that she has betrayed him to the Philistines, and he struggles to free himself from their soldiers' chains. Samson was displayed prominently in Gallery VI of Burlington House and attracted much public attention. Soon after the exhibition opened, Samson was acquired by the art dealer Raphael Isaacs for 1000 guineas, evidence of Solomon's growing reputation.2 The interest that the painting generated while exhibited at the Royal Academy continued afterwards, and it became a landmark in Solomon's artistic career. It was referred to in most publications concerning the artist and was Solomon's entry permit into the late Victorian art scene. His Samson was also exhibited at the Autumn Liverpool Exhibition in 1887 and was later presented by the shipowner James Harrison to the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool to mark Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in the same year. Differences of opinion about Samson expressed by art critics illustrate the interest that the painting stimulated. The work was appreciated as being innovative, particularly in its reliance on French academic painting and the grand style, and less on English painting. The Art JournaPs critic regarded Samson as 'the most prominent work in the collection',3 while Claude Phillips of The Academy noted Solomon's 'distinct and personal, if not a very exalted vision of the subject ... a thrill of real dramatic force such as is not common in the work of English Artists'. He praised 'the note of human * This paper is based on: I. Miller, Solomon Joseph Solomon, An Anglo Jewish Artist (i86o-ig2j), [Hebrew], (unpublished doctoral thesis, University of Haifa 2004). I wish to thank Professor Avram Kampf and Professor Daniel Gutwein for their valuable advice and support. 1 A. Graves, The Royal Academy of Art: A Complete Dictionary of Contributors and Their Work From its Foundation in 176g to igo4 IV (London 1906) 208. 2 'Royal Academy', Jewish Chronicle (hereafter JC) 6 May 1887, p. 12. 3 Lae, Art Journal (1887) 349, Solomon J. Solomon file, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool. 121</page><page sequence="2">hit Miller Plate i Solomon Joseph Solomon, Samson, 1887, ou&lt; on canvas, 244 x 366 cms, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool. National Museums Liverpool (Walker Art Gallery). passion [that] is unmistakably felt, and for this the youthful artist might fairly claim absolution in respect of even greater artistic sins that he has committed'.4 Some referred to the painting's dramatic power and brush work, expression of energy and movement, boldness, ambition, originality and depiction of human emotion.5 However, other critics criticized the exaggeration of the figures' obtru? sive anatomy and the painting's confused composition. The review in the Athenaeum denounced 'the mock tragedy Mr. Solomon J. Solomon calls Samson', and advised the artist to 'practice self-restraint and patience before he can hope to reach the solid ground of noble art'.6 George Bernard Shaw's review in The World referred in a similar tone to Solomon's preten? tiousness: 'he bids boldly for high place as a nineteenth-century Rubens by a Samson in the old-fashioned magnificent style'. Nonetheless, Shaw praised him for 'a brilliant and spirited achievement'.7 Solomon's success aroused a sense of pride in the Anglo-Jewish commu? nity. The Jewish Chronicle celebrated his accomplishment in a detailed review: 4 C. Phillips, The Academy, 7 May 1887, 331. 5 E. Morris, Victorian and Edwardian Paintings in the Walker Art Gallery and Sudley House II (London 1996) 405-7. 6 Athenaeum, 28 May 1887, 708, in ibid. 405-6. 7 G. B. Shaw, The World, 4 May 1887, 562, in ibid, 407. 122</page><page sequence="3">Samson by Solomon J. Solomon: Victorian academy and Jewish identity As regards Samson, ... it occupies one of the most important positions at the disposal of the Hanging Committee, being in full view upon entering the Academy through the central hall. Mr. Solomon demonstrates in Samson the force of his revolt against the canons of art recognized by the Royal Academy, ...with his contribution of one of the most striking pictures in the Exhibition. .. .[It is] one of the few in the Academy which will materially enhance its painter's reputation. ... Mr. Solomon appears about to gratify the hopes, which have been placed upon him, and in his latest achievement has produced a remarkable work.8 Changes in artistic taste in the twentieth century, as modernism became prominent, provoked the irony of the Anglo-Jewish artist William Rothenstein (i 872-1945), who described in his autobiography how: I was given an introduction to Solomon J. Solomon, then a young artist whose first exhibited pictures had made something of a stir at the Paris Salon and the Royal Academy. Solomon showed himself to be an excep? tionally capable painter of the big Salon 'machine'. Immoderate labour and skill were, year by year, spent on these immense fabrications - historical, biblical, or oriental - signifying little. Solomon's Samson was perhaps the most efficient example of this type of picture in England.9 Samson, which is among Solomon's most ambitious early works, is still prominently displayed in the Walker Art Gallery. Now, over a century later, it seems right to re-examine its images, composition, ideas and message. This article will explore Samson in relation to late-Victorian academic art, the Anglo-Jewish community and the Jewish cultural and national awakening at the turn of the twentieth century. It will also examine Solomon's Anglo-Jewish identity as revealed through Samson. Solomon and academia The fundamentals of academic training and art are keys to an understand? ing of Solomon's work and artistic views, as well as his social and profes? sional standing and achievements. Solomon's artistic education began at the Heatherley School of Fine Art (1876) and continued at the Royal Academy of Arts in London for three years (1877-9).10 'His study there', writes 8 'Royal Academy' (see n. 2). 9 W. Rothenstein, Men and Memories I (New York 1931) 35. 10 The biographical data about and bibliographical references to Solomon's career are a necessary background to any study of this artist. I have included them in an earlier publication: I. Miller, 'Hebraism and Hellenism in An Allegory - A Painting by Solomon Joseph Solomon', Ars Judaica 2 (2006) 103-5. Solomon is mentioned briefly in studies and exhibition catalogues of Victorian and Edwardian art published since the 1970s, and in publications and catalogues on Jewish artists and Anglo-Jewish exhibitions. Early sources are A. L. Baldry, 'The Works of 123</page><page sequence="4">hit Miller Alfred L. Baldry in The Studio, 'was, however, of a more or less desultory kind, for, with characteristic ambition, he started even at this early stage a studio of his own and began to give more and more of his time to original production, limiting his attendances at the Academy to the evening life classes'.11 The need for advanced studies motivated art students to study in Europe, especially Paris, Solomon's prolonged stay there following in the footsteps of prominent British academicians.12 During 1880?3 he studied in Europe and travelled extensively. In 1880 and again in 1882-3 he joined the atelier of the renowned French academician Alexandre Cabanel (1823-89) at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, where he received consistent and systematic training which was vital in shaping his artistic profile. His conviction of the merits of training in the Parisian atelier is evident in his recommendation to the younger artist, William Rothenstein.13 While in Paris Solomon already began showing his works at the Royal Academy's annual exhibitions, the Autumn Exhibitions in Liverpool and at the Salon in Paris, a most important arena in the course of advancement towards the status of academician. It seems, then, that Solomon had aimed since his youth at the status of academic artist in Britain. Academic education was the gateway to a profes? sional reputation, high social rank, participation in exhibitions and receiv? ing commissions. He exhibited regularly at the Academy's annual exhibitions from 1881 onward, an important public sphere that gave expo? sure to his works and advanced his artistic reputation and career. Solomon's election as an Associate Royal Academician in 1896 was an important stage towards the fulfillment of his professional ambitions. His nomination as an RA (Royal Academician) in 1906 marked his admission to the heart of the British art establishment. Solomon ascribed deep importance to the princi? ples of the scientific teaching of drawing and painting, and in 1910 published a handbook entitled The Practice of Oil Painting and of Drawing as Associated with It.14 Solomon J. Solomon A.R.A', The Studio VIII, no. 39 (June 1896) 3?11; S. L. Bensusan, 'Solomon J. Solomon', in Martin Buber (ed.) J?dische K?nstler (Berlin 1903) 141-53; O. Somech Phillips, Solomon Joseph Solomon: A Memoir of Peace and War (London 1933). The exhibition catalogue of the Ben Uri Art Gallery: Solomon J. Solomon RA (London 1990), includes biographical information, a list of works, and an essay by J. Pery. For further sources and bibliography: I. Miller (see starred introductory note). 11 L. A. Baldry (see n. 10) 3-4. 12 E. Morris and A. McKay, 'British Art Students in Paris 1814-1890', Apollo 135 (February 1992)78-84. 13 W. Rothenstein (see n. 9) 38. 14 S. J. Solomon, The Practice of Oil Painting and of 'Drawing as Associated with It (London 1910). 124</page><page sequence="5">Samson by Solomon J. Solomon: Victorian academy and Jewish identity Solomon was the second Anglo-Jewish artist to be elected a member of the Academy (the first had been the painter Solomon Alexander Hart in 1840). Within the Jewish community, where Solomon was already consid? ered the foremost artist, his election was a mark of integration, accultura? tion and social mobility. Stuart S. Samuel, reviewing Jewish involvement in the English art scene, wrote in November 1891 that 'at the present time we possess but one artist, who has been able to attain a prominent position, Mr. Solomon J. Solomon'.15 The artist's eminent standing in the community was often mentioned in Jewish Chronicle reviews of the summer exhibitions at the Royal Academy and in pre-exhibition reviews of Show Sunday.16 Since the 1880s Solomon regularly painted portraits, becoming one of the most sought-after portraitists in the late Victorian and Edwardian eras. But his mythological and allegorical paintings of the 1880s and 1890s marked his aspiration to create works in the grand style. His themes were drawn from history painting and matched the artistic precepts that consti? tuted the ideals of academic art. History painting was considered the high? est sphere in the hierarchy of academic subject matter, not only because of the complexity of its scheme, but for its ethical and moral scope and the grand human virtues embodied by the artist.17 The highly esteemed artist Frederic Leighton (1830-96), president of the Royal Academy of Arts (1878-96), promoted the Classical revival in late Victorian art.18 Among late-Victorian artists depicting themes derived from ancient Greek and Roman culture were George Frederic Watts (1817-1904), Edward Poynter (1836-1919) and Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836-1912).19 Solomon was among the younger artists who continued the Classical revival. From the mid-i88os he exhibited at the Academy works including Love's First Lesson (1885), Cassandra (1886), Niobe (1888), Sacred and Profane Love (1889), The Judgment of Paris (1891) and Orpheus (1892).20 Biblical subject-matter was common in Victorian painting,21 and Solomon employed this in several works in the 1880s, of which Samson was 15 S. M. Samuel, 'Jews and Art', JC 18 Nov. 1891, p. 33. 16 For example: 'The Royal Academy', 6 May 1892, p. 12; 'Round the Studios', JC 6 Apr. 1894, p.19. 17 C. Goldstein, 'Towards a Definition of Academic Art', Art Bulletin LVII, no. 1 (March 1975) 102-9; D. Green and P. Seddon, 'Introduction: Art, Historiographical Practice and the Ends of History', in idem (eds), History Painting Reassessed: The Representation of History in Contemporary Art (Manchester 2000) 1-17. 18 L. and R. Ormond,/,^ Leighton (New Haven and London 1975). 19 C. Wood, Olympian Dreamers - Victorian Classical Painters i86o-igi4 (London 1983) 203-23, 245-57 20 A. Graves (see n. 1) 208-9. 21 T. S. R. Boase, 'Biblical Illustration in Nineteenth-Century English Art', Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes XXIX (1966) 349-67. 125</page><page sequence="6">Plate 2 Solomon Joseph Solomon, Job Hearing of his Misfortunes, oil on canvas, 127.5 x 101 -5 cms&gt; Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool. National Museums Liverpool (Walker Art Gallery). the last. An earlier work was Job Hearing of His Misfortunes (1881), which was painted probably in Paris. It was exhibited at the Liverpool Autumn Exhibition in 1882 and has been at the Walker Art Gallery since 1910 (plate 2).22 In this Solomon depicts the dramatic moment at which Job receives news of the disasters that have befallen his family (Job 1:14-19), showing the tragic patriarch with facial expression and tense interlocked hands that reveal his emotional turbulence. The theatricality of the scene is conveyed by placing Job in the foreground and focusing on his lonely isolated figure, emphasizing his existential grief. Ruth, painted while Solomon was living in Tangiers and exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1884, is now untraceable.23 22 Morris II (see n. 5) 403-4. 23 'The Royal Academy', 9 May 1884, p. 12. I2?</page><page sequence="7">Samson by Solomon J. Solomon: Victorian academy and Jewish identity Scenes from the life of Samson were prevalent in the European biblical painting tradition, in part since Samson was considered a prefiguration of Jesus.24 Celebrated Renaissance and Baroque artists painted episodes from the life of Samson, including Lucas Cranach, Albrecht D?rer, Andrea Mantegna, Rembrandt, Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony Van Dyck. The academic framework of history painting in the nineteenth century affirmed the subject matter of Samson when this theme was chosen for the Grand Prix de Rome competition of the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris (1821).25 Events from the life of Samson were represented in illustrations by artists such as Gustave Dore, Leighton and James Tissot. Samson's life suited academic perceptions and taste by allowing artists to depict numerous figures, including the male nude, in complex composi? tions featuring forceful dramatic postures, especially in the figures of Samson and the Philistine soldiers. Samson and Delilah provided opportu? nities for powerful emotional expression through body and facial gestures suggesting fury, anger, shame, surprise or repentance. In addition, the theme of Samson suited nineteenth-century fondness for Orientalism by its exotic environment and atmosphere as well as its 'Semitic' types. Solomon took advantage of all these in his Samson. In this painting Solomon depicts the moment described in the Bible by the words 'the Philistines took him',26 omitting the subsequent scene of Samson's blinding. Samson appears in the centre of the scene dramatically rising from the couch, surprised in sleep, to discover that Delilah has betrayed him. His hair has been shorn and he has been bound by the captors. As he tries to free himself, Samson turns in fury and astonishment towards Delilah, who waves the lock of his hair with an outstretched arm and retreats to the corner of the room to the right. Imaginary lines of tension are drawn between Samson and Delilah by their staring eyes, and by the outstretched arms of the soldiers and Delilah, intensified by aggres? sive push-and-pull movements. The entangled muscular figures create a sense of physical strain emphasized by dramatic light and shade. The theatricality is increased by the sense of confusion generated by the fear stricken man lying on the floor, the overturned table, the swinging lamp, and the soldiers rushing in through the opening at the back, hinting at Samson's eventual blinding. Solomon spotlights Samson's struggle with the Philistine soldiers, a scene that takes place before the weakened Israelite leader is overpowered 24 J. Hall, Dictionary of Subjects and Symbols in Art (London 1980; ist ed. 1974) 271-2. 25 P. Grunchec, The Grand Prix de Rome: Paintings from the Ecole des Beaux Arts iygy-1862 (Washington, DC 1984) 25-7, 71. 26 Judges 16:21: 'But the Philistines took him, and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza, and bound him with fetters of Brass; and he did grind in the prison house.' 127</page><page sequence="8">Plate 3 Attributed to Peter Paul Rubens, Taking ofSamson, oil on canvas, 118 x 132 cms, Neue Pinakothek, Munich. Bayer Staatsgem?ldesammlungen, Munich. and blinded - the brutal episode depicted by Rembrandt in The Blinding of Samson (1636) at the St?del Museum in Frankfurt-am-Mein. Although the struggle of Samson is not described in the Bible, there are visual precedents for this scene in works by Rubens and Van Dyck on which Solomon undoubtedly relied. A painting attributed to Rubens or his workshop, Taking of Samson, c. 1620 (plate 3), is one iconographic source. This has long been in the collection of the Pinakothek in Munich, and was possibly based on an oil sketch by Rubens, The Capture of Samson (1609-10), at the Art Institute of Chicago. A similar painting by Van Dyck, Samson and Delilah (c. 1628-30) is in the Kunsthistoriches Museum, Vienna.27 Solomon studied for three months at the Akademie der Bildenden K?nste 27 R. A. H?lst, Rubens, The Old Testament, Series Corpus Ruhinianum III (London 1989) 115; E. Tietze-Conrat, 'Van Dyck's Samson and Delilah', The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs LXI (357) (December 1932) 246-7. 128</page><page sequence="9">Samson by Solomon J. Solomon: Victorian academy and Jewish identity in Munich in the early 1880s, so may have been acquainted with the work by or attributed to Rubens. The composition of the central group in Solomon's painting seems to be based on the Munich precedent. In both paintings Samson rises from the couch, his body turned in a dynamic diag? onal trying to extricate himself from his captors while his face twists in the opposite direction. In both paintings the action appears in the foreground, close to the viewer's space, increasing the dramatic effect. Another source for Samson could be the group sculpture Laoco?n and his Sons (2nd century BCE), which similarly presents a struggle.28 The associa? tion of Samson with the Laoco?n group might be indirect, via Rubens' sketch, Samson Taken by the Philistines, which, according to Roger A. H?lst, was modelled on the main figure in Laoco?n and copied by Rubens while he was in Rome.29 Solomon's work seems also to be linked to Michelangelo's Dying Slave and Rebellious Slave (1513-16), on whose conception Laoco?n may have been an influence. A further possible derivation for Samson could be Leigh ton, whose painting Samson and Delilah (c. 1858) was sold at auction in 1866. It remains untraced and no illustration is known.30 It is doubtful if Solomon ever saw the painting. But it is almost certain that he was well acquainted with Leigh ton's Elijah in the Wilderness (1878; plate 4), with its noticeable echoing of Michelangelo's energetic anatomy.31 This was exhib? ited at the Academy in 1879 and has been in the Walker Art Gallery ever since.32 Solomon may well have seen the painting in Liverpool, where he had participated in the Liverpool Autumn Exhibitions since 1882. It seems that he modelled the Philistine soldier, prominent at the centre of Samson, on Elijah in Leighton's painting. Another important work by Leighton ?An Athlete Strangling a Python - his first bronze sculpture, shown at the annual Royal Academy exhibition in 1877 (plate 5), was interpreted as 'representing human strength contending heroically with a deadly enemy, with physical and moral might victorious over the python'.33 Leighton presented a full size plaster model of this to the Royal Academy in 1886, so Solomon could have examined the work carefully. It does not refer to a specific literary source, but embodies a universal idea of male strength battling against evil. Leighton's athlete is directly linked to the central figure of Laoco?n and His Sons, yet lacks the emotional anguish of the Hellenistic sculpture. 28 J. Pery, 'Solomon J Solomon RA', in Solomon Joseph Solomon RA (see n. 10) 5-6. 29 R. A. H?lst, III (see n. 27). 30 L. and R. Ormond (see n. 18) 151. 31 S. Jones, 'Leighton's Debt to Michelangelo: The Evidence of the Drawings', in S. Robin (ed.) Lord Leighton i8jo-i8g6 and Leighton House (London 1996) 37. 32 L. and R. Ormond (see n. 18) 164; E. Morris, II (see n. 5) 268-72. 33 Art Journal, 1877, p. 185, quoted by B. Read, 'Leighton as a Sculptor', in S. Robin (ed.) (see n. 31)66. 129</page><page sequence="10">Plate 4 Fredric Leighton, Elijah in the Wilderness, 1878, oil on canvas, 234.3 x 210.4 cms&gt; Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool. National Museums Liverpool (Walker Art Gallery). Solomon's models for Samson therefore extend from ancient Greece to Leighton, via the powerful masculinity of Michelangelo.34 It is reasonable to assume Solomon, like Leighton, appropriated the work of predecessors. Quotation and copying from earlier artists were characteristic of academic painting. The choice of images and embellishment of themes were them? selves considered creative endeavours.35 Solomon continued this academic tradition, mentioning in his guidebook for young artists how: 'From Van Eyck to Velazquez, from Titian to Gainsborough, from Rubens to Ingres, from Watteau to Bastien Lepage,... [there] is little need to seek further for models on which to base artistic expression .. ..'36 34 A. Smith, The Victorian Nude: Sexuality, Morality and Art (Manchester and New York 1996) 135-42. 35 S. Tillim, 'The Academy, Postmodernism and the Education of the Artist', Art in America LXXXVIII, no. 4 (April 1999) 61. 36 S. J. Solomon (see n. 14) 70. 130</page><page sequence="11">Samson by Solomon J. Solomon: Victorian academy and Jewish identity Plate 5 Fredric Leighton, An Athlete Wrestling with a Python, 1877, Bronze, 96 x 72 x 44 cms (cast 1910). Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool. National Museums Liverpool (Walker Art Gallery). In Samson, Delilah, on the right, is separated from the struggling males. She embodies the faithless temptress, wearing a gown adorned with golden ornaments that reveals her breasts, and with long black hair falling about her shoulders.37 Her face turns toward Samson, rejoicing in his calamity, her right arm stretched out, clutching his shorn hair. She stands on a tiger-skin carpet, a common accessory for erotic females in late-Victorian painting, implying a bestial nature. Solomon used animal skin also in Mrs Patrick Campbell as Paula Tanqueray (1894) and Girl on a Leopard Rug (1925). Other artists, such as Alma-Tadema and Leighton, employed the same convention. In the same year that Solomon painted Samson he also conceived Delilah, showing her as an odalisque reclining on an armchair covered with leopard skin.38 She appears passive, diplayed like a precious object (plate 6). As a 37 O. Somech Phillips (see n. 10) 42. 38 Delilah was on sale at Sotheby's Belgravia on 27 January 1976 (lot 181), entitled One of the Harem, and again on 15 May 1979 (lot 133), titled Delilah (untraceable). i3i</page><page sequence="12">Plate 6 Solomon Joseph Solomon, Delilah, 1887, oil on canvas, 168 x 122 cms, (untraced), Sotheby's Picture Library, London. treacherous seducer she represents the femme fatale - a dangerous, unre? strained temptress.39 Samson's physical might, struggle and mission iden? tify him as an ideal of manliness and male superiority. Delilah and Samson in this way reinforce gender-stereotypes in English society at the turn of the twentieth century.40 The popularity of Orientalism since the time of the Romantic artist Delacroix ensured that historical or literary themes situated in the Orient were widespread in academic painting. Orientalism was noticeable in the exhibitions of the Salon in Paris and at the Royal Academy, having become 39 R. Rosenblum, igth Century Art (Painting by R. Rosenblum, Sculpture by H. W. Janson) (New York 1984) 457-9; S. P. Casteras, Images of Victorian Womanhood in England (London 1987) 166-7; P- G. Nunn, Problem Pictures: Women and Men in Victorian Painting (Aldershot, Hants 1995) 67. 40 L. Nochlin, 'Eroticism and Female Imagery in Nineteenth-Century Art', in T. B. Hess and L. Nochlin, Woman as Sex Object: Studies in Erotic Art, i/jo-igjo (London 1972) 9, 14; L. Nochlin, 'Women, Art, and Power', in L. Nochlin, Women, Art, and Power and Other Essays (New York 1988) 1-2; J. A. Kestner, Masculinities in Victorian Painting (Aldershot, Hants 1995) 1-44. 132</page><page sequence="13">Samson by Solomon J. Solomon: Victorian academy and Jewish identity an attraction due to imperial expansion and colonialism, growing interest in historical and ethnographic research, and the rise of tourism, especially to North Africa, the Near East and the Holy Land. The Orient fascinated artists by its unfamiliar remoteness from European life, its luminous land? scapes, ancient and sacred sites and exotic, boisterous and colourful markets and towns. The artistic imagination was particularly captivated by the mystery of bath houses and odalisques.41 Solomon was interested in oriental subject matter and biblical subjects from his youth, and was perhaps inspired by his tour to Spain and Morocco (c. 1882). Following this he conceived his paintings In Tangier, Blind Arab (1883) and Arab Fisherman (1884), which were exhibited at the Autumn Exhibition in Liverpool, and Waiting (1883), exhibited at the Royal Academy. All have been lost, though some are known from photographs. Biblical and oriental themes required 'realistic' and 'authentic' reconstruc? tion based on the observation of figures, costumes and accessories. In Samson Solomon employed models with oriental features, adorned with moustaches and beards, dressed in drapes and wearing turbans. He used rich ornamental patterns for fabrics and accentuated the tactile values of drapes, carpets and fur, and of shiny and gilded metals utensils, jewellery and furniture. Samson reveals Solomon's ambition also to demonstrate his academic skills: command of anatomy, expressions of extreme emotion and violent drama, and his ability to compose complex groups. He combined the dynamics of circular composition with dramatic diagonals, distorted and twisted body postures, folds of fabric in motion and baroque-like theatrical? ity. These aspects join the romantic exoticism apparent in oriental types and in the variety of patterns and textures of fabrics. The artist's French academic training is also evident in the stylized artificial elements of the painting's construction, the accentuated linearity and the factual and tangi? ble quality of details. Solomon and Anglo-Jewish cultural identity Solomon's involvement in the world of English late-Victorian academic art did not overshadow his familial and social connections within the Anglo 41 M. Stevens, 'Western Art and Its Encounter with the Islamic World 1878-1914', in idem (ed.) The Orientalists: Delacroix to Matisse (London 1984) 15-23; L. Nochlin, 'The Imaginary Orient', The Politics of Vision: Essays on Nineteenth Century Art and Society (London 1991) 33-59; A. Celebonovic, The Heyday of Salon Painting: Masterpieces of Bourgeois Realism (London 1974) 112-9; J. Harding, Artistes Pompiers: French Academic Art in the igth Century (New York 1979) 69-89. 133</page><page sequence="14">hit Miller Jewish community. His efforts to balance Englishness and Jewishness - being accepted as English while preserving his Jewish identity - reflected his sympathy with the Jewish communal policy of seeking integration following the attainment of full civil and political equality.42 Solomon was still at the beginning of his professional and public career when he exhibited Samson, but in later years would become active in matters associated with Jewish cultural identity.43 Taking into account Solomon's participation in the Anglo-Jewish community, one may ask whether the choice of a biblical theme - and of Samson's struggle with the Philistines in particular - for display at the Royal Academy Annual Exhibition in the year 1887 had a special significance. The painting departed from the mythological themes that Solomon painted and exhibited both before and after Samson. Relating to this painting in terms of Solomon's involvement in the Anglo-Jewish community may suggest a reading of the painting that differs from the traditional academic assessment. The Anglo-Jewish Historical Exhibition opened on 4 April 1887, a week before Passover, based mainly at the Royal Albert Hall, and continuing in parallel to the Academy exhibition. This Jewish exhibition presented about 3000 objects relating both to secular life and to religious customs and ritu? als.44 Its display in regal English surroundings - the Royal Albert Hall - enhanced the Englishness of the community and asserted its integration, as did the timing - Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee. Solomon's decision to exhibit Samson supported the Historical Exhibition's manifestation of communal presence and demonstration of the aims of Jewish social and cultural integration. His visual statement was noted and, as already mentioned, attracted attention at the major institute of English art, the Royal Academy, while the Anglo-Jewish Historical Exhibition was still open to the public. Viewing Samson in these terms offers an alternative manner of interpret? ing the painting. The fact that a Jewish artist painted this scene from the life of Samson removes the hero from his conventional place in the Christian Western painting tradition and appropriates him for Jewish art. Like some of his predecessors, Solomon chose the moment of Samson's struggle with his foes. But unlike them he stressed the physical strength and heroic 42 T. M. Endelman, 'The Englishness of Jewish Modernity in England', inj. Katz (ed.) Towards Modernity: The European Jewish Model (New Brunswick 1987) 225-41; V. D. Lipman, A History of the Jews in Britain since 1858 (London 1990) 11-42; I. Y'mzstem, Jewish Society in Victorian England (London 1993) 154-77; D. Feldman, Englishmen and Jews: Social Relations and Political Culture i840-igi4 (New Haven and London 1994) 89-137. 43 I. Miller (see starred introductory note) 312-75. 44 J. Jacobs and L. Wolf, Anglo-Jewish Historical Exhibition (London 1887); L. Wolf, 'Origin of the Jewish Historical Society of England', Trans JHSE VII (1915) 206-15; R. I. Cohen, Jewish Icons: Art and Society in Modern Europe (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London 1998) 192-7. 134</page><page sequence="15">Samson by Solomon J. Solomon: Victorian academy and Jewish identity Plate 7 Joseph-Desire Court, Samson and Delilah, 1821, oil on canvas, 114.5 x 152 cms. Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris. appearance of Samson. Rembrandt, as mentioned above, had represented Samson overpowered and blinded (plate 7), while Rubens and Van Dyck implied that he was about to be defeated. The Neoclassical painting by the French academy Grand Prix de Rome winner, Joseph-Desire Court, shows Samson shocked and almost frozen (plate 8). In all these depictions one can trace signs of weakness, fear, confusion or astonishment. Solomon, unlike them, depicts Samson rising above and struggling courageously to over? come enemies whose straining muscles reflect the effort required to bind him. In addition, while in the former representations Delilah is integral to the scene, either retreating or reaching out to comfort Samson, Solomon positions her separately at the painting's margin, as an embodiment of betrayal and evil. These differences are more than nuances. They reveal both Solomon's innovative concept of the subject matter and his distinc? tively 'Jewish' interpretation of the scene. The fact that Solomon used as model for Samson his own brother Philip, ca young man of strength',45 may indicate more than the personal nature of 45 O. Somech Phillips (see n. 10) 42. 135</page><page sequence="16">hit Miller his interpretation of Samson. By choosing his brother he linked the biblical hero with a contemporary young Jew. If this was in the artist's mind and noted in his social and artistic circles, the figure of Samson would signify a departure from the classic anti-Semitic image of the Jew as cowardly, greedy, unpatriotic, physically degenerate and effeminate.46 Later writers might have described Solomon's Samson as a 'new Jew', making his way through, and competing in, the Gentile world, while main? taining his ancestral attachments - representing a post-emancipation Jewish identity. David Fishlov, in his study of the biblical figure of Samson, describes him as a 'distinct Gentile', representing might, heroism and phys? ical strength, in contradistinction to the delicate yeshivah student immersed in study. A contemporary Israeli writer, David Grossman, in Lions Honey: The Myth of Samson, asks: 'maybe Samson felt a need to penetrate as deep as he could into Philistine existence, to rub up more and more against the foreigners, the mockers, the haters?' 47 For Grossman, Samson's life and works were 'always directed outside, towards the Philistines, with whom he falls in love and shares a banquet table, upon whom he takes revenge and makes war.. ,'.48 These readings of Samson, from over a century after the Victorian era, are relevant not only to Solomon's personality and experience of his own Jewish identity, but to the outlook of the Anglo-Jewish bour? geoisie of his time, who aimed to reconcile Jewishness and Englishness. Closer to the artist's own lifetime, Solomon's Samson became part of early Zionist discourse. Martin Buber devoted a substantial part of his address at the Fifth Zionist Congress in Basel in 1901 to Jewish art, discern? ing in this distinctively Jewish visual traits. Buber referred to contemporary Jewish artists, including Solomon, 'who brought a unique Jewish nuance in his paintings in the English modern tradition', and he specifically mentioned Samson.^9 A black-and-white reproduction appeared in the Jewish Almanac (J?discher Almanack) for 5663 (1902-3), which included literary works as well as illustrations by Jewish writers and artists.50 Under 46 F. Felsenstein, Anti-Semitic Stereotypes: A Paradigm of Otherness in English Popular Culture 1660-1830 (Baltimore and London 1995); T. Grab, 'Introduction: Modernity, Identity, Textuality', in L. Nochlin, and T. Grab (eds and introductions) The Jew in the Text: Modernity and the Construction of Identity (London 1995) 26-30; S. L. Gilman, 'The Jew's Body: Thought on Jewish Physical Difference', in N. L. Kleeblat (ed.) Too Jewish? Challenging Traditional Identities (New York 1996) 60-73; N. L. Kleeblat, 'The Body of Alfred Dreyfus: A Site of France's Displaced Anxieties of Masculinity, Homosexuality and Power', in N. Mirzoeff (ed.) Diaspora and Visual Culture: Representing Africans and Jews (London 2000) 76-91. 47 D. Grossman, Lions Honey: The Myth of Samson (translated from Hebrew by S. Schoffman) (Edinburgh 2006) 80. 48 Ibid. 86-7. 49 M. Buber, in Stenographisches Protokoll der Verhandlungen des VZionisten-Congresses in Basel, 26-30 December igoi (Vienna 1901) 163. 50 B. Feiwel and E. M. Lilien (eds) J?discher Almanach3663 (Berlin 1902) 125. 136</page><page sequence="17">Samson by Solomon J. Solomon: Victorian academy and Jewish identity Buber's leadership the J?discher Verlag and the journal Ost und West in Berlin were founded (1901), and he was editor of J?dische K?nstler ('Jewish Artists') containing essays on Max Liebermann, Josef Israel, Lesser Ury, Jehudo Epstein, E. M. Lilien and Solomon, as well as illustrations of Samson and other works by the artist.51 The association of Samson with early Zionism and Jewish cultural revival bestowed on the painting, as well as the myth of Samson, additional symbolic significance. Samson was linked to a series of biblical heroes emphasizing physical might and vigour - "Muscular Judaism"52 - his struggle symbolizing the Jewish people's fight for national rights. Samson, it seems, was adopted by those promoting Zionism, as were works by other Jewish artists. Michael Berkowitz relates to this issue: Most of the Jewish artists chose not to say anything about their feelings about Zionism; the only member of the group to place himself squarely in the category of'Zionist Art' was Lilien. The text of J?dische K?nstler never went as far as to claim that the others were Zionists, yet, clearly, they allowed their works to be seen and reproduced in the framework of a Zionist project. At some level the artists acknowledged and permitted the percep? tion of their works within the domain of Jewish culture, as delineated by the movement.53 Solomon did not object, so we may assume that he accepted the way his work was absorbed into the domain of Jewish culture. This use of the work is confirmed by Karl Schwarz, the director of the Jewish Museum in Berlin and later of the Tel Aviv Museum, in an article of 1912 on Samson in art that appeared in Ost und West, a journal with Jewish national tendencies designed to promote Jewish cultural revival.54 Schwarz related to works by European masters dealing with Samson and mentioned Solomon's Samson as well as Samson and Delilah by Max Liebermann (1903). He appropriated Renaissance and Baroque masterpieces for a Jewish cultural framework. Biblical themes were integral to the repertory of the Bezalel Academy, founded in Jerusalem in 1906, whose artists favoured scenes befitting Zionist ideology, including narratives of Israelite heroism such as that of Samson (plate 8).55 But Bezalel artists preferred to depict the triumph of 51 S. L. Bensusan (see n. 10) 153. 52 M. Nordau, 'Muskeljudentum' (1900) and 'Was bedeutet das Turnen f?r uns Juden' (1902), in Zionistische Schriften (Berlin 1923) 424-33. 53 M. Berkowitz, Zionist Culture and West European Jewry before the First World War (Cambridge 1993)134 54 K. Schwarz, 'Simson in der Bildenden Kunst', Ost und West 12 (May 1912) 449-58. 55 Y. Tzalmona and N. Shilo-Cohen, 'Style and Iconography of "Bezalel" Objects', in N. Shilo Cohen (ed.) Bezalel of Schatz: igo6-ig2g [Hebrew] (Jerusalem 1983) 204. 137</page><page sequence="18">Irit Miller Plate 8 Erich Goldberg, Drawing for Samson and the Lion, 1911-14, pen on paper, d. 4.7 cms, Mishkan Le-Omanut, Museum of Art, Ein Harod. Samson over the lion, to Solomon's ambivalent moment of vigour and weakness. The difference might characterize the distinction between Solomon, an Anglo-Jewish artist, and the Bezalel Zionist oriented artists. Solomon's Samson, grounded in the iconography of late-nineteenth century English academic painting, was exhibited at the Royal Academy at the same time as the Anglo-Jewish Historical Exhibition aimed to enhance the Jewish community's standing in England and its social and cultural integration. As such it supported the notion of integration. But its appro? priation by Jewish and Zionist voices confers on it a subtext linked to the construction of a new Jewish identity at the turn of the twentieth century. This duality may well mirror the contradictions inherent in the attempt both to integrate and to preserve the Jewish heritage in modern society. 138</page></plain_text>

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