English Artists: Rebecca Solomon (1832-86)


Figure 1.-- 'The Governess' (1851-54) is one of Rebecca Solomon's early paintings. It is a kind of split image. The ell off mistress and master of the house gaze with affection at each other. The young woman had married well and now leads a comfortable life. The other half of the image is another genteel young lady. She is attractive, but with out family money and has not succeded in attracting a suitor. There were at the time vey limited career opportunities for genteel young women. One was to be a governess and live in the house of a propsperous family to care for their children. The governess can only imagine the family that might have been had she found a husband. And as a governess, the chances of doing so steadily declined as she grew older. The child here is often described as a girl, but is clearly a boy wearing a maroon velvet tunic. He also has short ringlets and pantalettes, white socks and strap shoes. Click on the image for a fuller discussion.
Abraham Solomon's sister Rebecca was also a notable genre artist. Women were not admitted to art schools at the time. So Abraham taught his younger sister. As the family was Jewish, the social conventions of the day may not have limited her efforts to pursue a career as they did other young British women. Rebecca's talent meant that she was a rare woman artist allowed to exhibit her paintings at the Royal Academy which she often did between 1851-75. She created some remarkable images, but her work is not well covered by art historians. Children are commonly pictured in these genre scenes, especially those by Rebecca who added a woman's perspective. 'The Governess' (1851-54) is one of her early paintings. It is a kind of split image. The well off mistress and master of the house gaze with affection at each other. The young woman had married well and now leads a comfortable life. The other half of the image is another genteel young lady. She is attractive, but with out family money and has not succeded in attracting a suitor. There were at the time very limited career opportunities for genteel young women. Nursing was not even yet open to women. And despote pioneers like Rebecca, either was the art world yet open to them. One of the few acceptable possibilities was to be a governess and live in the house of a propsperous family to care for their children. The governess can only imagine the family that might have been had she found a husband. And as a governess, the chances of doing so steadily declined as she grew older. Rebecca was not a member of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. She moved in important artistic circles. She was an assistant in the studio of John Everett Millais. And for a time worked for Edward Burne-Jones as a model. Rebecca made transitioned to to classical and historical themes (late-1850s), a more respected subject matter during the Vicyorian era. She like her older brother was also snatched from the art world at a relitavely young age. She was run over by a coach (1886).






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Created: 6:12 PM 5/10/2009
Last updated: 12:14 PM 9/14/2013