The picture, A Young Teacher (1861), depicts a young girl teaching her family’s servant how to read. The model for the servant was Fanny Eaton (1835-1924), the Jamaican-born artist’s model known for also sitting for Pre- Raphaelite Brotherhood artists.
Eaton moved to England with her mother, a formerly enslaved woman, when she was a teenager. She married a cab driver and they had 10 children. She worked as a model and domestic servant in London.
The picture was sold at Sotheby’s London on March 23, 2022 for a hammer price of £240,000 (£302,400 including buyer’s premium) against an estimate of £20,000- 30,000, and was bought at the time by The Princeton University Art Museum.
However, an export licence was temporarily refused by the UK government in November 2022, to give UK institutions the opportunity to raise the funds.
The total needed was £314,880 (the auction price plus fees) and the funds were eventually raised by the Tate and Museum of the Home.
It will now go on display in Tate Britain’s new Pre-Raphaelite gallery from the end of June, then in autumn 2024 it will move to the Museum of the Home.
Following that, it will be available to both institutions as well as to museums and galleries across the UK as part of the national collection.
Polly Staple, director of collection of British art at the Tate, said: “We have been actively increasing the representation of women artists in the national collection, and we are thrilled to be acquiring this wonderful painting by an important figure in the Pre-Raphaelite era.”
Believed to be the first Jewish woman to become a professional artist in England, Solomon was known for showing an awareness of inequality in her work and this painting depicts Eaton posing as an Indian nursemaid.
Sonia Solicari, director at Museum of the Home, said: “For Museum of the Home this acquisition underpins the redevelopment of our worldfamous period rooms.
“Not only do we now hold three of Solomon’s paintings, we’re also bringing to light the neglected history of the Ayah [the term for south Asian women who were employed by British families as nannies or nurses] into our 1870s period room alongside that of Fanny Eaton, the painter’s model who lived for a while in Shoreditch.
“We’re so grateful to everyone who worked with us to acquire this socially and historically important painting.”
Solomon hailed from a prominent Jewish family and went on to become a pioneering pre-Raphaelite artist.
She was also active in social reform movements, including as part of a group of 38 artists who petitioned the Royal Academy of Arts to open its schools to women.
The price at Sotheby’s was an auction record for Solomon, almost 10 times more than any work sold previously according to Artprice.
The funds to buy the picture were raised from the Nicholas Themans Trust, Art Fund, the Abbott Fund and the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
Announced in June, Art Fund’s annual review revealed it had helped support acquisitions of more than 900 objects and works of art for museums in 2022. It said £8.4m in grants were offered during the year which included £4.5m towards acquisitions.
Among the highlights was the joint acquisition of Joshua Reynolds’ Portrait of Mai (Omai) by the National Portrait Gallery and the Getty Museum in Los Angeles; Joseph Wright of Derby’s Self-Portrait at the Age of about Forty (c.1772-73) by Derby Museum and Art Gallery and The Herefordshire Hoard of coins (buried in 878) by Hereford Museum and Art Gallery.