Dimensions: 51 × 91.5cm
Medium: Oil on canvas
Provenance: Bequest of Ms K Goodfellow, 1980
Born into a Dublin Jewish family, Estella Solomons studied under William Orpen at the Metropolitan School of Art, with Walter Osborne at the Royal Hibernian Schools and at the Chelsea School of Art. After periods in Paris and Amsterdam she returned to Dublin and set up a studio on Great Brunswick Street (now Pearse Street) that soon became a meeting place for artists, writers and politicians including her friends George Russell, Francis Beckett and Dorothy and Beatrice Elvery.
Solomons was a sensitive portraitist and an accomplished etcher and landscape painter who often took Dublin, Donegal and Kerry as her subjects. She produced images of many of her artistic circle including Russell, A.J. Levanthal, James Stephens and Jack B. Yeats as well as public figures such as Arthur Griffith and Horace Plunkett. A committed nationalist and member of Cumann na mBan, she is also believed to have produced portraits of fugitives of the Rising and Civil War whom she sheltered in her city centre studio.
The subject of this portrait is not known but the riding paraphernalia suggests the influence of Orpen’s much more elaborate portrait Gardenia St. George with Riding Crop.
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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