Arnold Henry Savage Landor (1865–26 December 1924) 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.
Landor was the son of Charles Savage Landor and his wife Esmerelda Armida Piselli, and spent his childhood in Florence where he was educated at the Liceo Dante and the Instituto Technico. He was an artistically precocious child and studied with Harry Jones Thaddeus, an Irish portrait painter. He was inspired with a passion for travel by the books of Samuel Baker, Jules Verne and the French Journal des Voyages. Before his sixteenth birthday, he went to Paris to study at the Julian studio directed by Boulanger and Jules Lefebvre, where his talent amazed his teachers. He visited Holland, Spain, Malta, Morocco and Egypt, and with his continuing passion for drawing and painting produced many works. When he came to England to visit his uncles and cousins, he found the effects of grey and green of the countryside to be very different from the colour tones he knew in Italy. In London he met Algernon Charles Swinburne, Theodore Watts and Lynn Linton who were associates of his grandfather.
Landor went to America with forty pounds in his pocket, and there he painted portraits which included President Benjamin Harrison and Miss Lincoln, granddaughter of Abraham Lincoln. He met the actress Lily Langtry in Chicago and painted the portraits of the American actress Cora Brown Potter as 'Juliet', and the actor Bellew as 'Antonio'. With the money he had made in America, Landor then went to Vancouver where, aged 27 in 1889, he embarked for Yokohama.
When he got to Japan, he was filled with enthusiasm for all that was around him. In Nikkō, Kyoto, Hakone, Kamakura and other places, he painted 24 large canvases and many small ones. While in Japan Landor painted several portraits of people at the Mikado's Court. Among these is a life size portrait of the Countess Kuroda, second wife of the Prime Minister, that of the Countessa Saigo, daughter of the Prime Minister after Count Kuroda, and one of the baby daughter of the Countess Hijikata, daughter of the Emperor's Treasurer. While in Tokyo, Landor painted a half-size portrait of Sir Edwin Arnold, author of The Light of Asia and of many other books about India and Japan. In the course of this visit to Japan made a journey to the largely unexplored 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).
After Japan he went to Korea, where he painted portraits of Min-san-ho, a nephew of the Wueen, the Prince Min-Young-Huan, Commander in Chief of the Korean army, and Min Young Chun, Prime Minister, who was described as Korea's Bismarck. From this journey to Korea, apart from the vivid sketches, come his book, Corea, or Cho-Sen, the Land of the Morning Calm (1895). From Korea he went to China, visiting the Great Wall and then to Peking, always sketching and making faithful notes of what he saw. He often met famous people in the most remote areas - at Hankow, for instance, he met Czar Nicholas II of Russia and Prince George of Greece. The Czar commissioned him to paint a huge canvas of the shipwreck of the Russian cruise ship the Crisorok, which Landor had originally sketched on the west coast of the island of Yezo. The canvas was then given by the Czar to the Naval Club of Vladivostok. In Peking, Landor met Sir Robert Hart, 1st Baronet, the English writer who was proficient in Chinese.
In 1891, he visited Australia, where he painted a portrait of the Prime Minister of New South Wales, Sir Henry Parkes which excited much admiration in Sydney because of its striking resemblance. While in Sydney, Landor painted the portrait of the African explorer Sir Henry Morton Stanley.
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.
In 1897 he set off on his travels to explore Tibet where he was captured and suffered terrible adversities and tortures. Nevertheless, he discovered the sources of the Indus and the Brahmaputra. Landor returned fearlessly 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 lectured 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 was the first to accompany General Linievitch in the triumphal entry parade of honour at the Forbidden City. 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 in that year 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 which America would need for its Army. Another book The Gems of the East, describes this journey of discovery (1904).
Then Landor dedicated himself to exploring Africa which was almost unknown at the time. In Abyssinia he painted the portrait of the Emperor Menelik II. In 1906 he published Across Wildest 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. In 1913, Landor published Across the 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 Pių 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. 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 sė, 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.
In the first years of the twentieth century Landor was interested in making flying machines with bamboo and taffeta, but abandoned these inventions to take up traveling again.With the outbreak of the Great War he dedicated himself to inventions and designed tanks and airships between 1915-18 on the Italian front.
After so many adventures Landor's health broke down, and he travelled less frequently. He was meanwhile an extremely popular figure, being a friend of the Kings of Italy and Belgium and of Pope Pius X. Other friends included General Luigi Cadorna, Prince Alexander Obrenovic of Serbia, Eleftherios Venizelos of Greece and [Essad Pasha]]. In the theatre he knew Maude Adams and Sarah Bernhardt and painted a portrait of Sada Yacco, the Japanese actress.
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 rest in the family chapel in 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.
Three 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 and in Naples at the British Consulate.