Photographs featured in paintings

After his return to Scotland in 1894, Hornel honed an approach to painting, which always seemed to begin with a photographic image.

All his paintings focused on enshrining the twists and turns of the female body in scenes of dreamy colour and light. The Kirkcudbright girls were posed to reflect the gestures of the women in the Japanese photographs.

Hornel became a compositor - taking a hand from one photograph, a tilt of the head from another - in order to designing a ‘perfect’ picture. As the backgrounds became more expressionistic, the faces, hands and feet of the girls became more photographic. It was not the identity of an individual Hornel sought but, rather, an ideal surface. The camera was his assistant, in a purely objective quest to find the ‘ideal’ pose.

Hornel was to create over 1,600 glass plates. The largest selection is of local girls, but there are also a number of photographs from Hornel and Tizzy’s trip to Ceylon and Burma – all the images echo the tropes he had discovered in the Japanese commercial photographs.