Photographers Index

Beato, Felix, fl 1852-1903, photographer

Gender: Male
Active Dates: circa 1852 - circa 1903
Active Area: Asia (continent)
India (nation)
Middle East (region (general))
China (nation)
Japan (nation)
North Korea (nation)
South Korea (nation)
Myanmar (nation)
Korean Peninsula (peninsula)
Likenesses: None found.
Photographs: See list of photographs
Publications: None found.
Related Entries: Robertson, James, b c 1813, photographer
Robertson and Beato
Felice [Felix] and Antonio Beato, British photographers born in Italy, were for many years thought to be one person with two names. It has only relatively recently been explained how a photographer named Beato could have been present in two different (and often very distant) places at the same time. The misunderstanding arose from the fact that both their names (Antonio Felice Beato) appear on several photographs. Felice is believed to have been born in the Venice area of Italy around 1830.

Both brothers were assistants to their brother-in-law James Robertson in Constantinople from about 1852 to 1865. From 1855 Felice, together with Robertson, took photographs of the Crimean battlefields. All three also travelled to Athens, Cairo, Jerusalem and finally India, where in 1858 Felice and Robertson photographed the killings carried out by the British army following the Lucknow revolt. The pictures Felice took there are among the earliest known photographs of corpses. Both brothers were technically skilled, achieving very high standards in clarity and composition, and they also shared similarities in style.

In 1860 Felice was in Fort Taku in China, where he photographed the interior of the fort after the rebels had surrendered to an Anglo-French garrison. In 1861 he left for Japan where, in Yokohama, together with the English journalist Charles Wirgman, he opened the first important photographic studio in Japan. They initially traded as Beato and Wirgman, thereafter Beato and Co. Felice’s photographs of Japan, taken between 1861 and 1877, when he sold his negatives and business, consist of landscapes and interiors, as well as typical occupations and inhabitants. They were delicately hand-coloured by local artists and, under the influence of Japanese prints, established a new standard in photographs of the Far East. In 1870 Felice returned to China and in 1871 was in Korea with the American fleet. In 1884 he left Japan for Egypt and then went to the Sudan with the expedition of General Wolseley. By 1886 he was in England, where he held a conference on his techniques at the London and Provincial Photographers’ Association. After this he left for Burma and settled in Mandalay, where he appears to have gone into business buying and selling traditional furniture. The exact date of his death is not known but is believed to be sometime between 1903 and 1907 (Browne and Partnow 1983, p.41, and Turner 1996, pp.446-47).
Sources: Browne, Turner, and Partnow, Elaine (1983), 'Macmillan biographical encyclopedia of photographic artists and innovators', New York: Macmillan Publishing Company.
Turner, Jane ed. (1996), 'The dictionary of art', New York: Grove's Dictionaries, Inc.

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