Seeing Adolfo Farsari’s photographs Rudyard Kipling commented, ‘Mr Farsari is a nice man, eccentric and an artist, for which peculiarities he makes you pay, but his wares are worth the money….’ Farsari was an adept artist, photographer and entrepreneur. He was born on February 11, 1841 in Vicenza, Italy. He briefly served the Italian military before emigrating to the United States and taking part in the American Civil War. As an artist his talent really blossomed while being in Yokohama, Japan.

Farsari specialised in what is now known as hand–coloured photography. His career as a photographer is intertwined with another talented photographer of his time Tamamura Kozaburo. Together they acquired the Stillfried & Andersen studio and firmly established themselves as the most promising photographers of the country. Colour photography was unheard of then. So, Farsari’s elaborately painted photographs did not take much time to capture the imagination of an international audience. Additionally, the albums were used to be embellished with lacquer, ivory and brocade. Farsari’s understanding of the oriental techniques served him well. Such was the value of these albums that Farsari did not hesitate to present one to Italy’s future king.

The presence of such photographers as Farsari, who was also an enthusiastic teacher, helped in the development of local talents. Like painting, photography in Japan carved its own unique niche. His photographs, even if seen through a slightly tinted vision, bring memories of a bygone era back to public consciousness. Farsari passed away on February 7, 1898 in his native town, Vicenza. Perhaps, his journey around the world in the preceding thirty five years was nothing but a quest of understanding the artist within.


Peter Henry Emerson bought a camera to aid him during his many bird watching trips. But soon this instrument became a crucial mean for his dialogue with nature, faithfully recorded in many of his black and white photographs. Emerson (May 13, 1856 – May 12, 1936) was born in Encrucijada, Cuba, a place where his father owned a sugar plantation. But with the death of his father during his early teens, he relocated to England with his mother. 

Emerson’s writings and speeches were said to be as persuasive as his photographs. These along with his devotion to realism set himself apart from other photographers of the day. When others indulged in heavily manipulating the photographs to render them a painting–like quality, Emerson developed his photographs literally ‘untouched’. However, his belief in photography as an art form persuaded him to capture the emotiveness of nature that feels to be so touching even today. It is not difficult, then, to understand why he said,

Nothing in nature has a hard outline, but everything is seen against something else, and its outlines fade gently into something else, often so subtly that you cannot quite distinguish where one ends and the other begins. In this mingled decision and indecision, this lost and found, lies all the charm and mystery of nature.


Today, Cristofano Allori is primarily remembered his painting of Judith with the Head of Holofernes (1613). He was born on October 17, 1577 in Florence. Courtesy Alessandro Allori, his famous father, Cristofano’s introduction to art was early. However, his technique considerably differed from that of his father’s. Alessandro Allori was greatly influenced by the masterful works of Bronzino, who happened to be his foster parent. But Cristofano loved the delicacy of Correggio’s brushstrokes and assiduously copied from his work in order to perfect his skills. Despite natural panache as an artist the number of his paintings was limited. Cristofano Allori passed away on April 1, 1621 in his birthplace Florence.


Like genre, still life paintings too flourished during the Dutch Golden Age and were made to look equally sumptuous courtesy the presence of such artists as Willem Claeszoon Heda, otherwise known as Willem Claesz. Heda. With his father being a notable architect of Haarlem, Heda (circa 1593 – 1680) boasted of an artistic lineage. It seems the artist cultivated an early affinity to still lifes and used to paint vanitas before deciding to inject life on the breakfast table.

Heda’s banquet pieces, though, are not collections of appetising food and novelty items, instead they focus on the condition of the table after the party is over. The greyish undertone serves to set up a melancholy mood typical of the Dutch paintings of that age. Dishevelled table linen, half eaten food left of the dishes, silver and glassware, goblets and vases tumbled here and there give out ample hints about a somewhat rowdy early morning party. But more importantly, they give sufficient indications of the mastery of the artist’s brushstrokes whose genius lay hidden in such intricate depiction of a few mundane objects.

John Milton (via itsquoted)
Who reads
Incessantly, and to his reading brings not
A spirit and judgment equal or superior,
(And what he brings what need he elsewhere seek?)
Uncertain and unsettled still remains,
Deep versed in books and shallow in himself,
Crude or intoxicate, collecting toys
And trifles for choice matters, worth a sponge,
As children gathering pebbles on the shore.


Amalia Lindegren’s idyllic childhood paintings were a far cry from her own early days. She was born on May 22, 1814 in Stockholm. The death of her mother left her a destitute at the age of three and the widow of her biological father became her custodian. Though surrounded by affluence, her position in the family of her foster parent was humiliating. She received a good enough education appropriate for the girls of that time and practised charcoal paintings at her home. A chance acquaintance with sculptor Carl Gustaf Qvarnström opened the gateway of the world of art for her.

Amalia Lindegren became the first woman from her country to receive a scholarship for studying art in Paris. She received training in the studios of such French artists as Léon Cogniet. Besides, she studied in Düsseldorf and Munich before proceeding to Rome. Indeed her skills were much influenced by the Düsseldorf school of painting. She became an established artist by the time of her return to Stockholm in 1856. Her paintings of contented domestic scenes were much in demand. She was awarded Litteris et Artibus in Sweden and became members of Royal Swedish Academy of Arts and British Female Artists Society before her death on December 27, 1891.


Esaias Boursse may not be the most familiar name today, but his evocative portrayals of Dutch domestic scenes share with us rare glimpses of the past, from as far back as the 17th century. Being a painter of the Dutch interiors, Boursse’s artworks were often analysed side by side his much illustrious contemporary, Johannes Vermeer’s. But a glance at their paintings is sufficient to reveal the lack of semblance between their paintings, both stylistically and in content. While Vermeer’s paintings revel in intriguing the viewer about an event, however mundane, that is about to take place but never happens, Boursse’s work serves as a commentary of the lives of the people, throbbing with muted emotion, within the four walls of their homes.

Esaias Boursse’s (March 3, 1631 – November 16, 1672) early days are shrouded in obscurity. Financed by his elder brother, he made a trip to Italy to study the nuances of painting. He is said to have been profoundly influenced by the paintings of Rembrandt and Peter de Hooch. Indeed, his artworks bear considerable influences of the latter. Boursse joined the East India Company as a midshipman and undertook voyages to such faraway lands as Indies and Ceylon. It is during a similar expedition in 1672 that his life came to a premature end drawing curtains on a short–lived yet fantastic career.


Jan Matejko’s vivid oil paintings serve as crucial documentaries for his country. Born on June 24, 1838 in Poland, Matejko’s childhood was anything but remarkable. His talent in other subjects than art was ordinary and he duly honed his skills in that direction. His training in the Academy of Fine Arts, Munich ended prematurely after a skirmish with one of the teachers, Christian Ruben.

For many years success eluded Jan Matejko and he suffered greatly from financial worries. He also became embroiled in the political controversies during the January Uprising of 1863. His support of the insurgents, morally and financially, further pushed him into pecuniary distress. However, the tide was about to turn in his favour soon. In 1865, he won a gold medal for his painting Skarga’s Sermon in the Paris Salon. This was followed by the awarding of much coveted Légion d’honneur in the penultimate year of the same decade. These two events plus his widespread popularity in Paris worked to establish his credentials firmly in the world of art.

Never of a particularly vigorous sort, Matejko suffered nearly complete breakdown in the final year of his life. He passed away on November 1, 1893. The value of many of his paintings, such as Stańczyk during a Ball at the Court of Queen Bona after the Loss of Smolensk, is not limited to their sheer technical or compositional brilliance but the context in which they were presented. A bemused court jester, standing for the country’s collective conscience, finds himself the lone figure contemplating on the pathos of war when others are busy in merrymaking in the background.