Reflective, deep eyes adorn the thoughtful face of a 91-year-old woman. Looking straight ahead unblinkingly, she radiates satisfaction and serenity.
With a large family scattered across the world and a great variety of drawings and paintings under her name, Elizabeth Solomon has both roots and legacy.
“I have had a varied and fortunate life. … Now that I’ve gotten as old as I am, I still want to put down those ideas in my head onto canvas, and to explore new ideas,” said Solomon, a Davis resident who was born and raised in Paris.
Her father, Paul Manship, was an acclaimed sculptor, allowing for her early beginnings in art. With a mother, a beloved nanny, a sister and brother (now all deceased), family has always been central to her beliefs. However, her everyday life took a drastic turn in the months leading up to World War II.
Moving to New York City to escape the war, Solomon graduated from the Art Students League, and soon after joined the Women’s Army Corps, owing to her strong French patriotism. War brought her to New Guinea and the Philippines, and fate brought her to her husband, whom she met there.
Moving to Cleveland, then San Francisco after the war, a brief teaching stint followed. In Sacramento, she exhibited many of her paintings, mostly of animals and human bodies. Solomon’s goal became to capture the elusive ability of movement.
“I love to show the tension of movement in bodies, whether they are animal or human, birds or clowns,” she said. “Expressing their three-dimensionality is important for me.
“I have never outgrown my childhood love of the circus, of masquerades and Mardi Gras. Painting is a grand excuse for color, movement … and foolishness.”
Later joining and becoming an active member of The Artery — an arts and crafts gallery at 207 G St. in downtown Davis — she continues to pursue her love of the arts even in her later years. The Artery’s publicity director, Fay Grundvig, recalls her impressions of Solomon’s work.
“I think people respond to her paintings because she has a distinctive way of capturing the essence of each of her unusual subjects — wrestlers, amphibians,” Grundvig said. “Her colors are bold and brilliant, contributing to her carefully conceived compositions. She values fine craftsmanship as she strives for perfection in each painting, believing good drawing and finishing are most essential.”
Now living a fairly independent and busy life, Solomon prioritizes eating healthy and finding outside interests that keep her involved. Her son, Peter Solomon, also plays an active role in her life, with happily anticipated weekly visits. Peter cheerfully looks after her, grateful for all her wisdom and support throughout the years.
“She has always been inquisitive, bright and with a razor-sharp sense of humor. She is well-read and has traveled widely over her lifetime,” Peter Solomon said. “My mother taught me to temper my youthful black-versus-white evaluation of the world with a cautious and deliberative approach and a broad-based perspective on events and times.
“Passionate in her commitment to peace and justice for all people, with my father she taught me the value of love and the brotherhood of all humans. … I am lucky and extremely proud to have her as my mother.”