Solomon Alexander Hart
(April 1806 - 11 June 1881)
He was born at Plymouth, the son of Samuel Hart (fl. 1785–1830), a Jewish engraver and teacher of Hebrew. He remained an observant Jew all his life. He served as an engraver's apprentice in London where he studied at the Royal Academy, and excelled in miniature painting. Hart became celebrated as a painter of historical scenes and characters, and in 1854 was appointed professor of Painting in the Royal Academy, and subsequently librarian.
SOLOMON ALEXANDER HART was born at Plymouth in April 1806. He was of the Jewish race and religion. His father was Samuel Hart of Plymouth, who began life as a worker in silver and gold at Bath; he is mentioned by Bromley (Catalogue of Engraved British Portraits, 1793) as a mezzotint engraver, and studied painting under Northcote in London in 1785.
Young Hart was educated under the Rev. Israel Worsley, a unitarian minister. Father and son went to London in 1820; the former taught Hebrew and the latter prepared drawings to become a student at the Royal Academy, where he was admitted in August 1823. To gain his living and help to support his father he coloured theatrical prints and painted a few miniatures. He commenced exhibiting at Somerset House with a miniature of his father in 1826. His first oil painting, ‘Instruction,’ was shown two years later at the British Institution, and was sold at the private view. Next year he was an exhibitor of five pictures, but did not sell one. In 1830 he exhibited at the Society of British Artists in Suffolk Street a more ambitious work called ‘Interior of a Polish Synagogue,’ afterwards known as ‘The Elevation of the Law’ (engraved in the Art Journal, 1851). This was purchased by Robert Vernon and bequeathed by him with his other pictures to the nation. It was so attractive that Hart received seventeen commissions, of which he was only able to execute three, one being a companion picture for Mr. Vernon, 'English Nobility receiving the Communion of the Catholic Church.' 'The Quarrel Scene between Wolsey and Buckingham' was in the Royal Academy exhibition of 1834, where also was shown 'Richard Cœur de Lion and Saladin' (1835). Hart was elected an associate of the Academy in 1835. The following year he painted 'Sir Thomas More receiving the Benediction of his Father.' In 1839 he exhibited a large picture of 'Lady Jane Grey at the Place of her Execution on Tower Hill,' which secured his election as royal academician in 1840. The painting remained rolled up in his studio until 1879, when he presented it to Plymouth, his native town, where it is placed in the hall of the new municipal buildings. He was occupied with a portrait of the Duke of Susex in the autumn of 1840. This was exhibited in the following May.
The duke advised him to travel, and gave him letters of introduction. Hart left England 1 Sept. 1841, and visited Italy, where he made many architectural and other drawings, originally intended for publication as a series of engravings. They were ultimately used as studies for his pictures of Italian history and scenery, among which are: 'Interiors of the Cathedrals at Modena and Pisa,' 'An Offering to the Virgin,' 'A Reminiscence of Ravenna,' and 'The Interior of the Baptistry of St. Mark's at Venice as in 1842,' exhibited at Hurlington House in 1880; 'Simchoth Torah Festival' (1845), 'Milton Visiting Galileo in Prison' (1847),'The Introduction of Raphael to Pope Julius.' There may also be mentioned 'The Three Inventors of Printing' (1852), and 'The Conference between Manasseh ben Israel and Oliver Cromwell' (1878).
Reminiscences of S. A. Hart, ed, A. Brodie, London, privately printed 1882, sm. 8vo, with photograph; Jewish Chronicle, 17 June 1881; Athenæum, 18 June 1881; Men of the Time, 10th edit. 1879; Bryan's Dictionary (R. E, Graves), 1886; G. Redford's Art Sales, 1888; Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 25, by Henry Richard Tedder.]
Hart, Solomon Alexander, R. A. (Brit.) Born, 1806. At the age of fourteen he was apprenticed to a line-engraver, but resolved to devote himself to painting, and entered the Royal Academy in 1823. In 1835 he was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy, and Academician in 1840. In 1857 he was appointed Professor of Painting to the Royal Academy, holding that office until 1863. In 1865 he was appointed Librarian, a position he still retains (1878). Among his earlier works are:
View painter's art: Solomon Alexander Hart (1806-1881)