Hornel - Edward Atkinson Hornel (1864-1933)
Edward Atkinson Hornel (1864-1933). Born Bacchus Marsh, New South Wales, Hornel moved to Scotland with his parents to settle in Kirkcudbright in 1866. He spent three somewhat unsuccessful years at the Trustees’ Academy before going to Antwerp to study under Verlat, and on his return he met George Henry in the autumn of 1885. Henry introduced Hornel to ‘Glasgow Boy’ James Guthrie and soon the influence could be seen in Hornel’s work, especially in his adoption of a square brush technique. Hornel’s art quickly developed, and he became interested in rich colour, dense pattern and an emphasis upon the decorative elements of a picture. A critic later described this as ‘the Parisian Carpet School’.
In 1886 Hornel and Henry worked together in Kirkcudbright, where Hornel remained, avoiding the art establishment in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Hornel had seen the mosaic-like pictures of Monticelli at the 1886 Edinburgh International Exhibition and his own work was made up of flattened, decorative areas of colour, with little depth and no distant horizons. He painted figures, often in woods. In 1890 Henry and Hornel collaborated on The Druids, a painting in which the decorative elements of incised gesso and overlaid gold co-exist with Celtic mythology, which fascinated Hornel at this time. A further co-operative effort resulted in The Star in the East (1891). Hornel’s work was already showing a Japanese influence when in February 1893 he set off for Japan with George Henry, financially supported by Galleries owner Alexander Reid and philanthropist William Burrell.
Hornel produced some of his finest oils during the 19 month-long visit, successfully balancing his feeling for decorative work with figurative drawing and composition. An exhibition of his Japanese works held in Glasgow was a success, but he nevertheless returned to Kirkcudbright to paint children in fancy dress, figures in flower-decked woods, autumnal forests and flowers, and girls by the sea. The 1890s saw Hornel at his most artistically successful, but after 1910 a certain reputation and lack of consistency crept in with a resultant lowering of standards.
He visited Ceylon in 1907, and Burma in 1918 but this did not have the same inspirational effect as Japan. He was commercially successful and purchased a fine 18th century townhouse in Kirkcudbright before the First World War for £400 with the sale of just one painting. He bequeathed Broughton House and the contents of his studio to the town, and it is now the Hornel Museum managed by the National Trust, with a fascinating Japanese Garden. His work was much in demand and he died a wealthy man. In 1901 he was elected ARSA but declined the honour. He died in Kirkcudbright.
There are examples of his works in the museums of Aberdeen, Buffalo, St. Louis, Toronto, Montreal, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Leeds, Manchester, Hull, Bath, and Liverpool.