Friday, 8 December 2017

Friday 8th December: The Annunciation (I know, again)

We're not through being annunciated it seems, so here we are again, but this one is a bit different...

The Annunciation (1877) Simeon Solomon
This time it's a close up view of Gabriel and Mary, with an obligatory lily.  It's a rather traditional piece from an artist of the Jewish faith, better known for his gender-fluid images of love  but there is something interestingly interchangeable in the figures of the girl and the angel.  Both glow, Mary's hair scarf matches the angel's robe and their background is featureless and dark.  The day seems to be dawning in the distance, much like the beginning of the Christian faith, the New Testament for a new day.

The Moon and Sleep (1897)
I found it interesting that both of these pictures (and more) were from Solomon's later phase, after his arrests and alcoholism.  Although their treatment is heavier, his style is unmistakable.  The close focus shows the interplay between people in intimacy, the relationship between human and divine, of influencer and influenced.

Night Looking Upon Sleep, Her Beloved Child (1895)
I wonder if there is more to Solomon's images of couples, one holding power over the other.  It would be tempting to read personal detail into the images - Solomon could be seen as being helpless to resist his destiny, a man (like Mary) who had no choice about what life he led.  Maybe he even though God had something to do with it (which would be okay in his sexuality but less so with the alcoholism).  Also, when Solomon was arrested for homosexual acts he was with another person, and the transaction between them changed the course of his life.  In the paintings, the couples are close and one of them looks upon the other with care.  The other blindly accepts. What will happen will happen.
Simeon Solomon, young

Simeon Solomon, old

It's an interesting choice for an artist who painted scenes of Jewish life and scripture, but his annunciation fits in with his paintings in such a natural way.  It's hard to see who he identifies with the most, the bestower or the bestowed, but there is a wonderful synergy between the figures. It's hard to feel sorry for Solomon, although what happened to him (and so many others) was disgustingly unjust, he took it on his own terms and even as an old wreck he has dignity.  Sometimes you just have to go with what you are given.

See you tomorrow.

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Many thanks for your comment. I shall post it up shortly! Kx