Exhibition:150 years old photos of Japanat Getty Museum, Dec 7 – Apr 24

Cultural News, 2010 December Issue

On view at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center in Los Angeles, December 7 – April 24, Felice Beato: A Photographer on the Eastern Road will present the first survery of Felice Beato’s (British, born Italy, 1832-1909) long and varied photography career which covered a wide geographical area – from the Middle East to Southeast Asia.

Getty Beato Koboto Santaro

Koboto Santao, negative 1863; print 1868. Felice Beato (British, born Italy, 1832 – 1909). Albumen silver, hand-colored print. Image: 9 3/16 x 7 1/16 in. oval vignette. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

The exhibition looks closely at the photographs Beato made during his peripatetic career that spanned four decades. Following in the wake of Britain’s colonial empire, Beato was among the primary photographers to provide images of newly opened countries such as India, China, Japan, Korea, and Burma. A pioneer war photographer, Beato recorded several major conflicts, including the Crimean War in 1855-56, the aftermath of the Indian Mutiny in 1858-1859, the Second Opium War in 1860, the Western campaign to Shimonoseki, Japan, in 1864, and the American expedition to Korea in 1871. His photographs of battlefields, the first to show evidences of the dead, provided a new direction for war photography.

Felice Beato: A Photographer on the Eastern Road examines the ways Beato tailored his images of foreign cultures to the Western audience. As Western colonial empires expanded in the second half of the 19th century, the market for photographs of distant lands grew dramatically.

The tourists and armchair travelers who sought enrichment through reading image-laden travel diaries were Beato’s primary clients. Beato’s oeuvre is exceptionally diverse, including topographical and architectural views as well as portraits and costumes studies of the countries he visited or in which he resided.

In 1863, Beato opened a photography studio in Yokohama, Japan, where he spent more than 20 years producing the first significant series of photographs made by a Western photographer in that country.

Later in life, Beato settle in Mandalay, Burma (present-day Myanmar) in 1887, where he established a photo studio and curio shop that became an attraction for foreign visitors.

During his time in Japan, one of Beato’s most important innovations was the introduction of the art of coloring photographs. He used watercolor instead of oil pigments, which provided greater translucency and resulted in a subtle but vibrant colored photograph.

Beato also offered the first photographic album in the country that included scenic views and costume studies depicting Japanese domestic life. They presented an overview of Japanese culture and were sold as souvenir to tourists.

Getty Beato Broze Statue Daibutsu Kamakura

The Bronze Statue of Dai-Bouts, Kamakura, 1863, Felice Beato. Albumen silver print. Image: 9 x 11 9/16 in. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

The exhibition will include an interactive kiosk that features one of Beato’s Japanese albums, which will be on display nearby. The interactive program will be on a touch table where visitors will have the opportunity to look through pages of the album and view Japanese people and customs as they were presented by Beato to 19th-century Western travelers.

Known in Beato’s time as the Hermit Kingdom, Korea was one of the last countries still closed to the outside world. Beato was hired to document an American expedition to Korea to seek a treaty and negotiate trade relations. However, violence broke out and retaliatory actions were taken by the Americans. From his trip, Beato brought back 47 photographs, including numerous portraits of military crews and views of the fleet and battlefields. Among these views of the local scenry and portraits were first known photographs of Korean natives.

In 2007, the Getty Museum acquired a substantial collection of more than 800 photographs by Beato, a partial gift from the Wilson Center for Photography. This acquisition is the impetus and foundation for the Felice Beato exhibition, which covers Beato’s entire career from his war photography to his commercial studio work.

Felice Beato: A Photographer on the Eastern Road is curated by Anne Lacoste, assistant curator of Photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum. Lacoste surveyed Felice Beato’s international career and examined the distinct approach he took in photographing the East for Western audiences, who were, at the time, seldom exposed to images of Asia.

The lecture Felice Beato: An Early Global Photographer by Anne Lacoste will take place on Thursday, January 27, at 7:00 pm at Museum Lecture Hall.

Curaor’s Gallery Talks with Anne Lacoste will be held on Thursday, January 13, at 2:30 pm and Thursday, March 17, at 1:30 pm. Participants will meet under the stairs in the Museum Entrance Hall.

Getty Beato Woman Winter Dress

Woman in Winter Dress, about 1868, Felice Beato. Hand-colored albumen silver print. Image: 8 7/8 x 7 1/16 in) The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Seating reservations are required. For reservations and information, call (310) 440-7300 or visit www.getty.edu. The J. Paul Getty Museum is located at 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90049. Closed Monday and major holidays. Admission to the Getty Center including the Getty Museum is always free. Parking is $15. No reservation is required for parking or general admission.

After premiering at the Getty this winter, Felice Beato: A Photographer on the Eastern Road, will be on view at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography in Tokyo, in Spring 2012.

The Beato exhibition is part of JapanOC, a festival exploring the fascinating diversity of Japanese and Japanese-American arts and culture involving cultural institutions throughout Southern California. In its second year of partnership with Carnegie Hall in New York, the Philharmonic Society of Orange County presents JapanOC, an extensive, season-long festival made possible by South Cost Plaza.