New to the Ben Uri Gallery

See the Solomon Hart watercolour of the interior of an early British synagogue

The Writing on the Wall by Solomon Alexander Hart.jpg

This week the Ben Uri Gallery acquired a new addition to their collection, a painting by Solomon Hart, one of the 19th century’s most important British Jews. Entitled The Writing on the Wall, this watercolour is thought to depict the interior of one of the first British synagogues. “We place it from 1837 to 1838," said the gallery’s chairman David Glasser, who went on to state that the picture is likely of the Polish Synagogue once located near Houndsditch in London's East End. The significant piece was won at auction in North Yorkshire on Monday for £5,000 and is the earliest recording of the synagogue’s interior.

Born in Plymouth in 1806, Hart took on the same engraving trade as his father Samuel, but soon began branching out. By 1840 he became the first Jew to join the Royal Academy of Arts, having already successfully showcased a portrait of his father in one of the Academy's 1826 exhibitions. Finding works by Hart for sale today is rare and when one went up for auction in New York last year it sold for $190,000 (roughly £137,500).

“This acquisition is a perfect example of the benefit to our museum of [removing from the museum] works rarely, if ever, seen by the public," said Glasser, referring to the decision made by the gallery last year to sell off around 500 pieces in order to more closely focus on the work of immigrants of all faiths. In doing so, Glasser believes they have "improved the collection with works that are clearly pre-eminent in their field”.

By Danielle Goldstein

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