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New museum strategy generates important loan to non-museum location
Solomon J Solomon RA (1860-1927), The Field, The Artist’s Daughter on a Pony, 1906. Oil on canvas, 187 x 141 cm, Ben Uri Collection, Gift from Mrs S J Solomon in 1937.

LONDON.- Ben Uri Gallery and Museum announced the first long-term loan of an important work from its collection to a non-museum location, as part of its 2019 strategic plan. This initiative is designed to generate ongoing public access to wonderful works held in store which are rarely, if ever, exhibited, for a wide range of reasons. In this case, the painting is simply too large to be shown in Ben Uri’s gallery.

The problem of art in long term store is widespread across UK and international museums. On average, some 90% of museum heritage collections languish in store, unseen by the public at large. Ben Uri’s new Loan policy addresses this crucial issue, and this long-term loan could not have happened without the great support of the artist’s family and the management of Nightingale House, part of Nightingale Hammerson, in Balham, London SW12.

The picture has particular relevance to Nightingale House through the concept of L’dor va’dor – from the Hebrew meaning ‘from generation to generation’. The artist’s daughter, Mary - the little girl on the pony - as an elderly lady, came to live at Nightingale House. In time, her daughter Anne also came to live at Nightingale House. Anne’s son, Patrick, has, for many years, been one of Nightingale’s doctors. His wife, Judith, recently set up the first Intergenerational nursery in the UK at Nightingale House.

A distinguished Royal Academician, Solomon was a remarkable man whose impact extended far beyond the Royal Academy and the artistic establishment. He was a founder member of the Society of Portrait Painters and first President of the Maccabeans (later the Jewish Educational Aid Society, which supported a number of fledgeling modernist artists, including David Bomberg, Mark Gertler and Jacob Kramer). In 1906, the year he painted The Field, he became only the second Jewish Royal Academician, after Solomon Hart RA more than 50 years before. His contributions to the annual RA Summer Exhibition were hung in what was known as ‘Solomon’s corner’. During the First World War, he pioneered military camouflage, sculpted dummy heads to attract fire to locate enemy snipers, and developed hollow metal, bark-covered Observational Post Trees, which concealed lookouts on the front line. From 1924-26 he was President of Ben Uri. Postwar, he continued painting portraits (including members of the Royal Family) until his death in 1927. His handbook 'The Practice of Oil Painting and Drawing' (1911) is still in print and used by artists today.

One of the Ben Uri Collection's other treasures is Solomon’s The Breakfast Table from 1921, which shows the artist’s wife Ella and youngest daughter Iris seated in comfortable intimacy in the family bungalow at Birchington-on-Sea, in Kent, which was designed by his brother-in-law, distinguished architect Delissa Joseph. A fascinating feature is that The Field is reproduced in The Breakfast Table, 15 years after it was painted, and is clearly visible in the background.

The loan project represents a second collaboration between Ben Uri and Nightingale House. Ben Uri partners Nightingale House in Art in Residence, a three year, a collaborative project between the two institutions, researching the impact of high-quality arts interventions on the lives and wellbeing of groups of residents living with dementia.

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