Sunday, April 19, 2009

Solomon J. Solomon

The most popular painting in yesterday’s Samson and Delilah poll was Solomon Solomon (60 votes), the artist who was so nice they named him twice.

I was impressed with all your comments about that painting and the others. The next highest vote-getter was the Matthias Stom (39 votes). The best known old masters: Rubens (13), Van Dyck 2 (11), and Rembrandt (6) were far behind, but as some of you pointed out, I overlooked an important Rembrandt, "The Blinding of Samson," link.

So who is this guy Solomon Solomon, and why are there are no books on him?

Well, the good news is that there’s a book by him, and it’s one of the best books on classical painting. It’s got the rather clunky title: “The Practice of Oil Painting and of Drawing As Associated With It.”

What’s even better, Solomon’s manual on oil painting is available for a free download here. To give you an idea of the content, here’s a plate showing “A Method of Painting for Grisaille Preparation or for Direct Colour.”

1. The outline brushed in.
2. The middle tones.
3. Higher lights and shadows added while wet.
4. The whole brushed together, broadened, and completed with a full brush.

Here's what Wikipedia says about him:

Solomon's painting was grounded in his influence from his teacher Alexandre Cabanel, but was also influenced by Frederic Leighton and Lawrence Alma-Tadema. Solomon painted mainly portraits to earn a living, but also painted dramatic, theatrical scenes from mythology and the bible on large canvasses. These scenes include some of his more popular paintings. One of Solomon's most popular works was Samson (1887), depicting a scene from the biblical story of Samson and Delilah.[3] This painting was praised for its use of multiple male nudes in active poses.[4] Samson is one of few Solomon paintings on regular display, at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool.[3] Some other Solomon paintings that have received significant attention include Ajax and Cassandra and The Birth of Love (1896).

More on Solomon Solomon at Wikipedia, link.
Seven images by SJS at ARC: link.


Dorian said...

SJS rocks!
couldn't manage to download the book from the google books page but I found these in case anybody else has trouble, too:

a pdf version would be nice.. ;]

Cindy said...

I absolutely love this Ajax and Cassandra painting, it is one of my all time favorites. It is one of those paintings that makes my stomach and my head do somersaults at the same time everytime I see it. I am glad Solomon is getting some love here.

Victor said...

Solomon is one of the those unheralded masters; I'm especially appreciative of him because of his book. He's a bit of a guilty pleasure, though, due to the somewhat misogynistic subject matter of his most famous paintings.

An interesting fact about Solomon is that he played an important role in the development of camouflage in World War I.

Camouflage is all about confusing the light/dark patterns that the eye immediately recognizes, so I suppose it was only natural that a painter would be the one who had expertise in that area.

Also, note Solomon's very French drawing. Many of the most technically proficient Victorian British painters were trained abroad: Alma-Tadema, Leighton, Poynter and Solomon (who studied with Cabanel in Paris). There was a lot of friction between proponents of the French style of art instruction and those of the British schools during this period.

Victor said...

I also have a question about that head painting plate in the Solomon book: what's the point of drawing in all those little shadows in step 1 (like in the hair and under the mouth) if you're just going to paint over them with your mid-tone (as in the upper right square)? Why wouldn't you just leave that drawing for after the application of the mid-tone?

Anonymous said...

I would imagine that an underdrawing with the shadows indicated would be helpful, even with a mid-tone painted over it, as it would probably still be somehow visible through the paint layer. Visible enough to serve as a guide to the forms that will be more thoroughly worked up in the next stage.

Daroo said...

Thanks Jim -- the download worked fine for me. Just curious, do you have links to the other artists' books that you would have posted if they had won the poll?

I agree Victor, it seems counter productive to paint in all that detail and then cover it up. I would probably rough in a big shape of that flesh tone and then go back and cut into that with my shadow shapes.

But establishing those shadow shapes first does a couple of smart things: 1)It keeps the darks transparent 2)Establishes accurate proportions 3) Immediately establishes the tones of the shadow family and distinguishes them from the halftones (which are part of the light family of values)4)It is a good practice run -- if you draw it right once you can draw it right again -- and painting wet into wet is about constant redrawing as you pull one color over another and adjust edges etc.

As relates to #3 above possibly Solomon changed his mind about the area around the mouth -- its a reflected light within the shadow, so it is grouped close to the shadow tone -- but it is easy to push reflected light too high in value and confuse it with a halftone.

More likely though he just wanted that light flesh tone to paint into and the shadow shape was a small enough shape that he knew he'd reestablish it in the next stage. Big shapes then small shapes.

Unknown said...

This is good, thanks for posting this.

James Gurney said...

Daroo, thanks for those great painting insights, and Victor, I appreciate the insights about camouflage.

Actually, I didn't have any other Google books or posts planned for other possible "winners" of the poll, but there are some obscure books by other artists that I'll spotlight on future posts.

Jared Shear said...

I was unaware of this little jewel written by Solomon. Thank you for enlightening us of it's existence.

limbolo said...

Old Soloman's book is quite a find. Thank you James.
Now, me... I prefer stage 1 to the finished version of the little girl. And I think Sol's having us on. That tight little black and white was done at the end of the whole process, not at the beginning.

Gavin said...

This is a really good find. Whilst artists were busy painting, so few thought to leave their precious teachings behind (or simply wanted to keep things secret!)
I found a good illustrated online copy here:

Sheldon Tapley said...

I bought the Solomon book and have been enjoying it (thanks for getting it re-issued with color plates). And--I have a question: SJS refers to "wire plush mat" as a scraping tool. Do you know what that is? I couldn't find anything with my searches.

James Gurney said...

Sheldon, I believe we'd call that "steel wool," but it might be a bit more like a screen scraper.