Hart of Plymouth

A hidden story.
A painting revealed.

Funded by the Arts Council England in partnership with The Box and Plymouth Synagogue.

David Prescott and South West artists, Nina Raines, Derek Frood, Luke Jeffery & Ruth Mitchell are exploring the life and work of the Plymouth born Jewish artist, Solomon Hart.

In partnership with The Box and working across art forms, the project will research a museum-based performance about the artist, the first Jewish member of the Royal Academy of Arts, and his massive painting, 'Lady Jane Grey at the Place of her Execution', which is stored in its archives in the basement of the building, unseen for over a century. Benefiting from the insights and knowledge of Senior Curator Emma Philip and Community Development Producer, Fiona Evans, the team will consider Solomon Hart’s place in the mid-nineteenth century art establishment of England as probably the most important and influential Jewish artist working in Britain at that time. The project will also consider his resonance with themes found in The Box, such as the permanent 100 Journeys exhibition which explores immigration and emigration from and into the city over the centuries.

The project is also partnering with the Plymouth Synagogue and will look at the long established community and heritage of Jews in a city that is home to the oldest Ashkenazi Synagogue in continuous use in the English speaking world. Jerry Sibley, the custodian, has kindly lent, for research, a rare copy of Solomon Hart’s ‘Reminiscences’, published in 1882, that is kept at the Synagogue.

The aim of the project is to create the roadmap of a performance that could be shown in a gallery space in The Box at a future date.

Design Concepts

Lead Artist - David Prescott
Actor - Derek Frood
Design Concepts - Nina Raines
Website and Film - Luke Jeffery
Dramaturg - Ruth Mitchell



Solomon Hart

Solomon Hart, the Plymouth born, first Jewish member of the Royal Academy of Arts, became probably the most well-known Jewish artist in England in the nineteenth century. Born in 1806, he was a third generation immigrant, his grandfather arriving in this country in 1747 and who was also in the first congregation of the Plymouth synagogue in 1762. Plymouth, as a seaport, has a long history of immigrants living there, with a small thriving Jewish community starting around the 1720’s, three hundred years ago. His father, Samuel Hart, recognising Solomon’s drawing talent, took him to London where he was helped by the Plymouth artist James Northcott RA. During his time of trying to make his way in the British art world, the question of the emancipation of the Jews and granting them civil rights, to be able to hold municipal office and become an MP, rumbled on in and out of the House of Lords for over twenty-five years.

To make his election as a Royal Academician undeniable Solomon decided to paint a huge, historical masterwork, virtually thirteen foot square. Taking well over a year to paint, ‘Lady Jane Grey at the Place of Her Execution’, was shown in the Middle Room of the Royal Academy Exhibition of 1839 and which subsequently saw him elected to the RA. Solomon thrived as an artist for the next forty years being well known for his historical and religious paintings, including interiors of synagogues. He also made portraits of some of the most prominent Jewish men of the time, including Sir Moses Montefiore, Sir David Salomons, Sir Anthony Rothschild and Ephraim Alex, founder of the Jewish Board of Guardians. He went on to become Professor of Painting at the RA and then was the academy's esteemed librarian for many years until his death.

Hart died a wealthy man and left a bequest of a thousand pounds, then a considerable sum, to the Plymouth synagogue. As for ‘Lady Jane Grey at the Place of Her Execution’, it has lain rolled up, in the dark, in the archives of the Plymouth Museum, now the city’s exciting new flagship museum, The Box, and hasn’t been exhibited for over a hundred years. Forgotten, except to a few experts, like the story of this significant son of Plymouth.

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© National Portrait Gallery


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Top left: © Jewish Museum New York
Top right: © Royal Academy of Arts
Bottom left: © Royal Academy of Arts
Bottom right: © Jewish Museum London

Lady Jane Grey at the place of her execution by Soloman Alexander Hart, oil on canvas, 1839
© The Box, Plymouth

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Credit Jewish Museum New York



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Credit Royal Academy of Arts


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Credit Royal Academy of Arts

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Credit Jewish Museum London

Lady Jane Grey at the place of her execution by Soloman Alexander Hart, oil on canvas, 1839
The Box, Plymouth

Top left: Jewish Museum New York
Top right: Royal Academy of Arts
Bottom left: Royal Academy of Arts
Bottom right: Jewish Museum London

Lady Jane Grey at the place of her execution by Soloman Alexander Hart, oil on canvas, 1839
The Box, Plymouth

Credit Jewish Museum London

Lady Jane Grey at the place of her execution by Soloman Alexander Hart, oil on canvas, 1839
The Box, Plymouth

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