Photos taken by famed Japanese photographer in early 20th C found in Japan

Photos taken by famed Japanese photographer in early 20th C found in Japan

A collection of 120 photographs taken by a Japanese photographer who worked in New York in the early 20th century has been found in his nephew's house in Saitama Prefecture and will be partly exhibited from March in his hometown of Matsue, Shimane Prefecture.

Ichiro Hori (1879-1969), who lived in New York for about 30 years from 1901, was a successful photographer known for portraits of such world-class artists as dancer Isadora Duncan, who pioneered modern dance, and Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, according to Taro Nishijima, a curator at Matsue History Museum, who studied the pictures.

The pictures found recently include portraits of Heihachiro Togo (1847-1934), a Japanese naval hero during the Russo-Japanese war, Sessue Hayakawa (1889-1973), the first Japanese actor to star in Hollywood, and Mary Darges, wife of famed Japanese bacteriologist Hideyo Noguchi (1876-1928), who was Hori's good friend.

"Hori is not famous in Japan, but he succeeded in New York. It was said in New York then 'If the poster's picture is not taken by Hori, the artist is not top-class'," Nishijima said.
Nishijima said it found the pictures in the house of Kosaku Sano, one of Hori's nephews, in Kawaguchi, Saitama Prefecture, after another nephew contacted the museum in 2010 and asked it to look into products related to Hori and his father, Rekizan Hori, kept in the houses of relatives.

After leaving for the United States in 1901 at the age of 21, Hori opened his own studio in 1912 in New York, which was later called "Mr Hori Studio," according to the curator.
As the studio became more famous, more big names from Broadway and Japan came to have their portraits taken.

In 1918, The New York Times introduced Hori's work, saying, "Ichiro E Hori contributes a portrait of Admiral Togo, in which attention is concentrated on the keen dark face enlivened by piercing eyes," and, "It is very unassuming little portrait, but has the inner vitality characteristic of the good periods of Japanese portraiture.

"Hori deepened a friendship with Noguchi who was in New York for research activities, as they lived next to each other in the same apartment, and Hori taught Noguchi how to play shogi, or Japanese chess, and paint in oils.

Hori took a lot of portraits of Noguchi in New York, some of which are displayed in Hideyo Noguchi Memorial Hall in Fukushima Prefecture.

At the age of 50, Hori returned to Japan, but gave up his career as a photographer and became a painter -- a reason why he is not known well in Japan despite his "remarkable achievements" in New York, according to Nishijima.

"The pictures discovered this time are very precious, because they contribute to figuring out the whole picture of Hori's work," Nishijima said.

Some of the photographs will be displayed at Matsue History Museum from March 20 to May 5.