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27 Feb 2017

Japanese photographs influence Scottish artist

A black and white photograph of four Japanese women in traditional dress, kneeling on the floor. They are smiling and are chatting to each other.
Japanese photograph at Broughton House
Edward Atkinson Hornel travelled to Japan in 1893, with his friend and fellow painter George Henry.

It was on this trip that they both encountered Japanese photography.

Hornel purchased hundreds of commercial photographs (known locally as shashin) of Japanese gardens and geishas.

He joined the Japan Photographic Society to meet local photographers and to gain access to theatres, exhibitions and modelling sessions. Here he obtained photos of women and girls in traditional costume, posing in the privacy of a studio setting.

The Japanese photographs gave Hornel a set of formulaic poses, which he then tried to emulate with his own camera back in Scotland. Hundreds of glass plates held in the archive at Broughton House show Hornel’s attempts at capturing an unusual tilt of the head, twist of a hand or arc of a torso. The girls were posed by Hornel’s sister Tizzy. He then used these elements to compose his popular paintings, echoing the tropes he had discovered in Japanese photography.