Portrait Of A Woman by Estella Solomons (1882 - 1968)

Portrait of a Woman

Date: N.D.
Dimensions: 39 × 48.5cm
Medium: Oil on canvas
Collection: Niland Collection
Provenance: Bequest of Ms Kathleen Goodfellow, 1980


The subject of this intimate portrait is Solomons’ close friend Kathleen Goodfellow (1891–1980). Born in Dublin, Goodfellow was a poet and writer who published under the pseudonym Michael Scot. The two women, who were both members of Cumann na mBan, first met during the Easter Rising while sheltering from bullets on Mount Street.

In 1926, Solomons married the poet and editor James Starkey who was better known by his pen name, Seumas O’Sullivan. Together they produced the influential Dublin Magazine which played a significant role in encouraging Irish art and literature from the 1920s until O’Sullivan’s death in 1958. Goodfellow both contributed to, and was the primary patron of this publication. In 1938 Solomons and O’Sullivan became Goodfellow’s neighbours when they rented one of her houses on Morehampton Road, Donnybrook. The house, along with many others on the street, was owned by Goodfellow whose private income came from family property (1).

During their long friendship, Solomons’ painted her friend several times. Two of these portraits, both bequeath by Goodfellow, are in the Model and Niland Collection, another is in the National Gallery of Ireland.

1. Dardis Clarke, ‘The Dark Lady of the Dublin Magazine’, Irish Times, 13 February, 1981.

Written by Riann Coulter


About the Artist

Estella Solomons (1882-1968)

Born 1882, Dublin, Ireland. Died 1968, Dublin, Ireland. Born into a Jewish family in Dublin, the daughter of an optician, Solomons attended the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art where she studied Life drawing under Sir William Orpen. Later she studied drawing from Life and the Antique under Walter Osborne at the Royal Hibernian Academy Schools. She first showed at the Leinster Hall in Dublin in 1903 as part of an exhibition of Young Irish Artists, including works by Frances Beckett, Dorothy and Beatrice Elvery. In the same year, she spent several weeks at Colarossi’s atelier in Paris. In 1905, she began exhibiting at the Royal Hibernian Academy, contributing more than 250 paintings (mainly landscapes as well as academic portraits) until her death in 1968. During the late 1900s, Solomons began to develop an interest in etching which, apart from watercolours, became her main interest, outside of oil painting: in all, she produced over 90 etchings, aquatints and drypoints, as well as some linocuts. According to Theo Snoddy [Dictionary of Irish Artists: 20th Century p.620] Solomons was a member of Cumann na mBan and her apartment, at the time of the Rising, was a “safe” house for people on the run. She also painted some of the rebels, as they passed through her hands. She continued producing portraits and etchings before and after Independence. Her sitters included the writer Alice Milligan, the poet Joseph Campbell, the artist Jack B Yeats, Frank Aiken, IRA Chief of Staff, her husband – the portraitist Seamus O’Sullivan – and many others. In time, however, landscapes began to occupy more and more of her attention. In the early 1920s, she began teaching etching at the Dublin Municipal Technical Schools, and in 1925 she was elected an Associate Member of the RHA. She continued painting up until the mid-1950s – most of her later landscapes being views of County Kerry – exhibiting at the RHA and several other venues, mainly in Dublin. As an artist, Estella Solomons is noted for the formality of her fine academic portraiture, and her unsentimental treatment of her subjects. Examples of her works can be seen at the Crawford Municipal Art Gallery in Cork; the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin; the Irish Jewish Museum; the National Gallery of Ireland; the Limerick City Gallery of Art; and the Ulster Museum in Belfast.

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