The J. Paul Getty Museum

Gathering Water-Lilies

Object Details


Gathering Water-Lilies


Peter Henry Emerson (British, born Cuba, 1856 - 1936)




East Anglia, England (Place Created)




Platinum print

Object Number:



19.8 × 29.2 cm (7 13/16 × 11 1/2 in.)

See more

See less

Object Description

Initially published as a limited-edition photogravure, this photograph of a man and a woman in a rowboat subsequently appeared in Peter Henry Emerson's first book, Life and Landscape on the Norfolk Broads. Emerson preferred book or album presentation so that text could accompany the image. He advocated naturalism in photography, which meant that he believed photographs should represent nature as truthfully as possible without manipulation by the photographer. Emerson's writings indicated his passion for photography. He declared: "...we must first see the picture in nature and be struck by its beauty so that we cannot rest until we have secured it on our plate...."

He derived his subject matter from rural life in the marshy, coastal region of East Anglia, northeast of London. The book features images of laborers, and this peaceful scene is no exception: as the man rows, the woman gathers flowers to use as bait for fishing. Water-lilies were placed in a large bow net, like the one behind the oarsman in this image. The bow net was then sunk to trap tench, a fish common to these waters. Emerson sought a moment of tender beauty as the woman reaches into the water to collect a blossom.

Experimental Photography: The First Golden Age 1851-1889 (April 11 to June 25, 1989)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), April 11 to June 25, 1989
Arrows of Time: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum (January 24 to April 2, 1995)
  • Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Cultural Center at UCLA (Los Angeles), January 24 to April 2, 1995
The Old Order and The New P.H. Emerson and Photography 1885-1895 (October 13, 2006 to November 9, 2008)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), March 27 to July 8, 2007
  • The Chrysler Museum of Art (Norfolk), July 2 to November 9, 2008

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Collections. 7th ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2007), p. 302, ill.

Hanson, David A., Checklist of Photomechanical Processes and Printing 1825-1910 (2017), p. 124.