OIL PAINTING: Love in Autumn, 1866
Love in Autumn was painted in Florence in 1866 and exhibited in 1872 at the Dudley Gallery, an important forum for the work of young "progressive" artists. This painting was for many years regarded as one of the most notable of Solomon's images of androgynous youth. Prior to his arrest for homosexual activities in 1873, he was credited for formulating a pathetic type of male beauty fashioned from a range of cultural traditions.
The sensuality of the youth in Love in Autumn, suggested by his rapt expression and blushing complexion, is offset by the drapes and wings which mask his sexuality and impart a wistful, spiritual aura to a scene in which the threatening mood of nature mirrors the inner desolation of the figure. At a time when the category "homosexual" was beginning to be defined and recognized, the idea of male-male love tended to be expressed through complex allegorical codes. Love in Autumn reverses the visual conventions for the nude by presenting a single male (rather than a female) as a vulnerable, suffering being. The meanings embodied in this symbolic journey of a figure through a hostile landscape remained personal and obscure behind the presentable facade of the classical nude, which may explain why Solomon felt compelled to develop his ideas in the form of a visionary prose poem, A Vision of Love Revealed in Sleep, which he published at his own expense in 1871. This montage of apparitions apprehended by the dreamer and his disembodied soul on their quest for Love, includes the following passage where Solomon presents in verbal form his vision of Love in Autumn: "his wings fell about his perfect body; his locks, matted and the sharp moisture of the sea, hung upon his brow, and the fair garland on his head was broken, and its leaves and blossoms fluttered to the earth in the chill air".