Self-Portrait with Candles
Born Lily Solomon in 1863, Lily Delissa Joseph was the younger sister of the artist Solomon J Solomon, who may have encouraged her to paint. She also trained at the Ridley School of Art and the Royal Academy becoming a portrait, landscape and interior painter. She later married the architect Delissa Joseph, who built two of her brother Solomon J Solomon’s studios.
Deeply involved in the women’s suffrage movement, Delissa Joseph was famously unable to attend her own Private View at the Baillie Gallery, London in 1912 after being detained at Holloway Gaol ‘on a charge in connection with [the] Women’s Suffrage Movement’. One of the first women to own and drive a car, she also learnt to fly aeroplanes when in her fifties. A committed member of the Jewish community, she was involved in many charitable ventures. In 1911 she met the young poet Isaac Rosenberg while painting at the National Gallery (she depicted its interior in a number of works). She employed him briefly as a tutor to her children and her sister Mrs. Henrietta Lowy did the same, before introducing him to their wealthier friend Mrs Herbert Cohen, who sponsored his studies at the Slade School of Art.
Lily Delissa Joseph was also religiously observant and well-known for her musical voice in the communal singing at the Brook Green synagogue in Hammersmith – she had also been active in its establishment. In Self-Portrait with Candles, one of three works in the Ben Uri collection, she shows herself in modest dress and with her head covered. She holds the two Shabbat candles which are traditionally kindled by the woman of the house about twenty minutes before sundown to mark the formal beginning of the Sabbath on Friday evening. The work combines her interest in portraiture and interiors, and is influenced by her admiration for Rembrandt, particularly in the use of light and shadow. It also shows her characteristic use of a limited palette of white, cobalt blue and rose or orange madder.
This is one of three works by Lily Delissa Joseph in the Ben Uri Collection.