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18 Feb 2022

From Glasgow to Japan: Hornel at Pollok House

An oil painting of a Japanese woman playing a stringed instrument. Her hair is arranged on top of her head and she is wearing a pink kimono style garment.
After two years of closure, the Gallery at Pollok House will reopen with an exhibition on ‘Glasgow Boy’ artist Edward Atkinson Hornel and his trips to Japan in the 1890s and 1920s. The exhibition will tell the story of how he portrayed Japan in his paintings, and the legacy of these experiences on his life and works back in Scotland.

Hornel holds an important place with the Trust. His home, Broughton House in Kirkcudbright, has been in our care since 1997. Its famous garden and rich collections have remained firm favourites and are amongst our most loved.

As part of the exhibition, 16 original works will be brought from Broughton House to Pollok House, many of them to be exhibited in Glasgow for the first time. The exhibition will open on 24 March and will close on 19 June 2022.

The new exhibition at Pollok House will take visitors on a journey from the rich art scene of 1890s Glasgow to the shores of Japan, which had then only recently permitted outside visitors. Glasgow’s passion for Japanese art and culture was led by the city’s influential art patrons such as dealer and agent Alexander Reid and collector Sir William Burrell, who, along with other wealthy individuals in the city, paid for Hornel’s first trip to Japan in 1893–4.

From Glasgow to Japan: Hornel at Pollok House


One speaker: Dr Sam Gallacher

Our current exhibition is E A Hornel: From Glasgow to Japan.

Hornel is a Glasgow Boy.
He's the National Trust for Scotland's Glasgow Boy, a painter in the late 19th century whose collections we have at Broughton House in Kirkcudbright, in Dumfries & Galloway.
We're looking at a really interesting period in Scotland's art history.
It's the late 19th century, Glasgow's Gilded Age.
Hornel's trip to Japan produces a series of amazing artworks that become a blockbuster sensation when he returns to Glasgow.
And from that, Hornel makes his name.
This exhibition is telling this story, but also the legacy of this story and how his paintings changed through later trips to Japan in the 1920s.

Emma Inglis, the exhibition’s curator says: ‘Hornel was above all a commercial artist. The burst of paintings inspired by his first visit to Japan tapped into the prevailing culture of Japonisme in Scotland and were snapped up by collectors. 20 years later, though this fashion may have waned, he found an alternative market for paintings of children in the Galloway countryside. These romanticised views of girls posed by the shore, among blossoms or in woodland owe much to the Japanese paintings that came before. Tracing the full development of Hornel’s later oeuvre from the 1890s through to the late 1920s is an important element of our exhibition.’

On Hornel’s travels he collected highly textured paintings of women and girls, depicted against densely worked landscapes in luminous, jewel-like colours which influenced Hornel’s trademark painting style. Alongside a selection of Hornel’s paintings from Broughton House, we will exhibit items from his extensive photographic collection. This will trace the evolution of his painting style from the 1880s to the late 1920s, showing the impact of photography and how his work was shaped by his encounters in Japan.

A glass plate negative, black and white image of a back view of a girl kneeling on a blanket while leaning against a weaving device.
Photograph of a young woman in Sri Lanka hand weaving

Dr Sam Gallacher, Operations Manager for Glasgow, says: ‘A major theme within this exhibition is about connections and networks. Not only between Hornel and Japan, as one would expect, but connections with real pertinence to the history of Pollok Country Park. Sir William Burrell, whose collection sited in the park reopens to the public this spring after a major refurbishment project, was one of the financial sponsors of Hornel’s trip to Japan.

‘Moreover, one of Hornel’s collectors was Sir John Stirling Maxwell, founder of the National Trust for Scotland, who purchased three of Hornel’s Japanese paintings for Pollok House, his home and our venue for this exhibition. As such, we’re seeing this exhibition as something of a homecoming for E A Hornel, and an opportunity for us to say more about this important chapter in the artistic heritage of Pollok and Glasgow.’

A white wall. Hanging on the left is a reproduction of a colourful painting of two girls playing outside. A translucent plastic copy of a black and white photo has been placed over one girl, showing how her figure was copied from the photo. On the right is a colourful painting of a Japanese woman in a kimono, accompanied by a reproduction of a photo with similar features.
Hornel’s work is exhibited in a variety of galleries and museums.

The exhibition has drawn on recent research into Hornel’s use of photography, which was crucial to his art. In many instances, Hornel copied poses directly from his collection of photographs onto the canvas. Photography influenced the formats of his canvases and the compositions of his works.

Update | March 2024: Pollok House is now closed for approximately two years to facilitate the second phase of a £4 million programme of investment led by Glasgow City Council. The works will comprise roof and general building fabric repairs.