Sir Jacob Epstein (1880-1959)
Head of Dr Solomons Snr (1885-1965), c.1955
© The Estate of Sir Jacob Epstein
Bronze with a green patina, 30.4cm
Bequeathed, Dr Bethel Eric Robert Solomons, 2012
The sitter, Bethel Solomons, served as Master of the Rotunda Hospital from 1926 to 1933 and later served as President of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland. He was also founder member and first President of the Liberal Synagogue in Dublin and an Irish international Rugby player. In 1916, he married Gertrude Levy, a classical musician, in London. His father Maurice was an optician, whose premises at 19 Nassau Street in Dublin is mentioned in Joyce’s Ulysses. His sister Estella (1882-1968), meanwhile, was a highly regarded artist, a member of the Cumann na mBan during the 1916 rising, and the wife of the poet and publisher, Seamus O’Sullivan. Bethel was himself a supporter of the Easter Rising, and could count among his friends Arthur Griffith, founder of Sinn Fein, who he assisted in buying a house. His brother, Edwin, a stockbroker, was a leading figure in Jewish circles in Dublin.
Epstein was born in New York, where he received his initial art instruction at the Art Students’ League. He turned to sculpture around 1899-1900, and in 1902 left for Paris, enrolling at the École des Beaux-Arts, and the Académie Julian. In 1905, he settled in London and soon developed a widespread reputation for his work. Shaw, of whom Epstein produced a portrait, was just one Irish figure with whom he was associated. He was well connected in art circles in Britain and beyond, and his sitters included fashionable and wealthy individuals from all over Europe and America. His work features in the many prominent public collections, from Tate to MoMA.