“Are ‘Friends’ Pre-Raphaelite?”

I admit it; I suffer from the perennial disease of 6 degrees of Pre-Raphaelite separation. I am able one way or another to link seemingly disparate things to my favourite art movement. This one however appears to be a bit of a no-brainer.

This morning I was sent a link to First time ever I saw your face by Broadcaster feat Peggy Seeger (which you should all listen to because it’s fab). I couldn’t help but be reminded of the Tubeway Army’s “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?”. A quick tappity tap on my keyboard and up popped the cover art for the single, I was astonished.

The visual parity between the cover image of Numan and Solomon’s paintings Creation (1890) and Night (1890) is striking. Like Solomon’s paintings the record sleeve features a figure (a pouty Numan) shown against a dark and foreboding sky, replete with crescent moon. I love how the haziness of the Numan image even manages to look like it was rendered in the watercolour medium used by Solomon in the paintings cited.

Creation (1890) by Simeon Solomon
Night (1890) by Simeon Solomon

I have no idea if the parity was deliberate; interest in the Pre-Raphaelite movement was certainly high during the 70’s. Either way it is very striking!

A short biography of Simeon Solomon

Born in 1840, the youngest of 8 children Solomon was born into a prominent Jewish family. His Father, Michael, was a successful merchant and his mother Kate (nee Levy, an artist. Like his siblings Abraham and Rebecca, Simeon Solomon carved out a successful artistic career. During his early career Solomon concentrated chiefly on Hebraic imagery in a Pre-Raphaelite style. However from 1863 onwards it is clear that his style was moving away from Pre-Raphaelite ‘truth to nature’ and becoming increasingly aesthetic and symbolist. By late 1860’s he was painting figures such as Bacchus from classical mythology. This caused consternation and led to the accusation that he had abandoned his Hebrew roots.

In 1873 Solomon was arrested and charged with attempting to commit sodomy in a public toilet. His reputation did not recover from this and he found himself largely friendless and destitute. In 1884, suffering from severe alcoholism Solomon entered the workhouse where he continued to paint and draw up until his death in 1905.

During his career Solomon produced some of the most remarkably sensitive and beautiful images of the era. A selection of Solomon’s work can be found in the artwork databases at http://www.simeonsolomon.com/index.html

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