Hornel went to Ceylon with the expectation that its landscape would meet the stereotypical ideal of a lush, warm and tropical scene, where people can wander through gardens filled with flowers saturated with colour. However, he actually discovered an abundance of tall evergreens with flowers in their canopies, which absorbed light and colour on the ground and created a much cooler palette than he had anticipated. As a result, Hornel’s paintings take artistic license with the surroundings, but do focus on the colourful costumes of the people. 


The photographs Hornel took in Burma were all from a photography session organised for him. The photos record the swirl and twist of local dancing girls, their hands and arms, costumes and hair all recorded for as series of subsequent paintings set in an imaginary landscape.