Arnold Henry Savage Landor

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Arnold Henry Savage Landor with cats Kerman and Zeris, whom he travelled with in Across Coveted Lands

Arnold Henry Savage Landor (1865 – 26 December 1924)[1] was an English painter, explorer, writer and anthropologist, born in Florence. His grandfather was the poet and writer Walter Savage Landor, who himself lived for long periods in Florence.

Early life and training[edit]

Landor was born in Florence, Italy, to Charles Savage Landor and his wife Esmerelda Armida Piselli. He spent his childhood in the city, educated at the Liceo Dante and the Instituto Technico. He had a talent for art and studied with Irish portrait painter, Harry Jones Thaddeus.[2]

Inspired to travel by the books of Samuel Baker, Jules Verne and the French Journal des Voyages he went to Paris in his teens to study at the Julian studio under Boulanger and Jules Lefebvre. He visited England, the Netherlands, Spain, Malta, Morocco and Egypt producing many drawings and paintings. On arriving in England he was struck by the greys and greens of the countryside.[2]

First expedition to America, and the Far East[edit]

With only forty pounds in his pocket Landor travelled to America, where he painted portraits of President Benjamin Harrison, the granddaughter of Abraham Lincoln, the actresses Lily Langtry (in Chicago) and Cora Brown-Potter. With the money he had made in America, Landor then went to Vancouver, Canada followed by Japan in 1889. He travelled to Yokohama, Nikkō, Kyoto, Hakone, Kamakura, before reaching Korea and, in 1891, Australia.[2]

In Japan he painted 24 large canvases and many small ones. Among his portraits was a life size portrait of the Prime Minister's wife, Countess Kuroda, one of a Prime Minister's daughter, the Countessa Saigo, and one of the baby granddaughter of the Emperor's Treasurer. In Tokyo, Landor painted a portrait of author Sir Edwin Arnold. He visited the Island of Hokkaidō, where he got to know the customs of the indigenous Ainu. He made several paintings and subsequently wrote Alone with the Hairy Ainu (1893).[2]

In Korea, where he painted portraits a nephew of the Korean queen, Commander in Chief of the Korean army Prince Min Yeong-hwan, and Prime Minister Min Yeong-chun. A product of this Korea adventure was his book, Corea, or Cho-Sen, the Land of the Morning Calm (1895). After Korea Landor visited China, including the Great Wall and Peking, compiling sketchas he went. In Peking, Landor met the English writer Sir Robert Hart, 1st Baronet. At Hankow, Landor met Czar Nicholas II of Russia and Prince George of Greece. Landor was commissioned by the Czar for a large painting of the shipwreck of the Russian cruiseship the Crisorok, from Landor's original sketches on the island of Yezo. The canvas was then given by the Czar to the Naval Club of Vladivostok.[2]

During Landor's 1891 visit to Australia he painted a portrait of the Prime Minister of New South Wales, Sir Henry Parkes and the African explorer Sir Henry Morton Stanley.[2]

Later travels[edit]

Landor returned to England, and Queen Victoria invited him to Balmoral so that she could look at his drawings and hear of his journeys. In London he became great friends with James McNeill Whistler and Joseph Pennell.[citation needed]

In 1897 he set off on his travels to explore Tibet where he was captured and tortured. Nevertheless, he discovered the sources of the Indus and the Brahmaputra. Landor returned to Tibet a second time and then to Nepal. From his journeys to Tibet and Nepal come his books In the Forbidden Land (1898) and Tibet and Nepal (1905).

On his return to Europe, Landor gave an increasing number of popular lectures and went on to America to repeat them there. While in America, he heard of the Boxer Rebellion in China, and went immediately to Peking where he accompanied General Linievitch in the entry parade of honour at the Forbidden City.[citation needed] From this journey came his book China and the Allies (1901).

In 1901 he journeyed to India from Russia, riding on horseback through Persia, and published his account of the journey in the book Across Coveted Lands (1902). He then went to the Philippines where he met the future General Pershing and, returning across America, he succeeded in convincing Theodore Roosevelt that Pershing would be the man whom America would need for its Army.[citation needed] Another book The Gems of the East, describes this journey of discovery (1904).

Landor speaking at the Sorbonne in 1914

Landor then dedicated himself to exploring Africa. In Abyssinia he painted the portrait of the Emperor Menelik II. In 1906 he published Across Widest Africa and in 1911 and 1912 he went to the Mato Grosso in Central America. On his return to Europe, during his lectures, he told stories of meeting boa serpents, weeks of almost dying of starvation, voyages in canoes in rapids leading to the Amazon River, and many other terrible wanderings. His lectures were requested not only as entertainment for wordly society, but also by scholars.[citation needed] In 1913, Landor published Across Unknown South America.

In 1912 Landor spoke at the Sorbonne, introduced by Paul Deschanel. Later he was a guest of Gabriele D'Annunzio. The poet gave him, as soon as he entered, an inscribed copy of his last novel Più che l'amore, stating that it was inspired by Landor's book on Tibet (In the Forbidden Land). D'Annunzio suggested they collaborate on his next novel. Landor did not accept the offer. The poet, a few days later, said he was asked to write an article for the Corriere della Sera. Landor, tricked by this, showed him his notes, and entertained him with a number of anecdotes.[citation needed] After some years, Landor discovered in a fascicle of Critica, the journal edited by Benedetto Croce, some extracts of Annunzio's latest novel Forse che sì, forse che no, plagiarized from Landor's travels in the Philippines, in Asia and in Africa, which the novel's hero, an aviator explorer, recounted in the first person.[citation needed]


During the early 1900s Landor tried to make flying machines with bamboo and taffeta.[2][3] When the Great War was declared he turned to designing tanks and airships for the Italian front.

Later years[edit]

Landor's health eventually broke down, and his travelling diminished. He continued to make friends in high places, for example the Kings of Italy and Belgium and of Pope Pius X, Prince Alexander Obrenovic of Serbia, Eleftherios Venizelos of Greece, General Luigi Cadorna and Essad Pasha[disambiguation needed].[2]

When his mother died in 1915 and his father in 1917, he was deeply affected and retired to his home in Florence, where he died in 1924. His remains were laid to rest in the family chapel at Porte Sante, then removed recently to the English Cemetery, Florence.

His autobiography Everywhere: The Memoirs of an Explorer (1924) is an account of a life lived intensely, and a witness to the history and customs of far away people of the last two decades of the nineteenth century and the first two decades of the twentieth.

Four exhibitions of his paintings have been displayed – in 1959–60 by the British Council, in the Palazzo del Drago at Rome, in the Palazzo Antinori in Florence, in Naples at the British Consulate - in 2014 in the Palazzo Pitti, Gallery of Modern Art.



  1. ^ Hill, Richard Leslie (1967). A biographical dictionary of the Sudan. London: Frank Cas & Company Ltd. p. 209. ISBN 0-7146-1037-2. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Piero Fusi, A. Henry Savage Landor, website. Retrieved 2014-02-05.
  3. ^ New York Times A Rival for Wright:Landor says his aeroplane is completely successful New York Times June 3, 1908

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