Victorian photographs from across globe offer exotic thrills in an Indian Summer for Horsham

By Laura Burgess | 23 March 2011
Exhibition: India Summer, Horsham Museum and Art Gallery, Horsham, until April 2 2011

Horsham Museum's Indian Summer comes in the spring. A collection of photographs from Victorian businessman Robert Henderson, who toured South-East Asia during his global travels in the 1870s, the shots have only survived because very few people have seen them, digitally copied for the Museum’s display.
These are warm images showing the grand architecture and scenes of the everyday working man from around 1865 and 1870, when India’s culture was a source of rich fascination for the English. Shortly afterwards, in 1876, Queen Victoria would be proclaimed the Empress of India.

As director of R&J Henderson, East India Merchants, Henderson toured India in January through to July 1874 before travelling the rest of Asia and America to look at business interests.

Instead of taking his own pictures, Henderson would call into photography studios and a select a range of photos, some of which were then hand-tinted. Some images in the collections he discovered were taken by celebrity Samuel Bourne, whose photos were described as having “luminescent quality.”

Visitors can see four albums at the Museum, reconstructing Henderson’s tour. Volume One, from January to July 1874, shows India, Singapore and Jahore. The other three volumes contain images from Bangkok, China, Japan and America.

Bourne’s work led to him opening studio Bourne & Shepherd, which still operates in Calcutta, and is more than likely the place where Henderson collected the prints. They were pasted into green leather bound albums and eventually donated to Horsham Museum in 1930.

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