Britain fought wars in India throughout the 18th and early 19th centuries to protect trade and enlarge its territories. Yet during this period a significant number of British army officers and administrators became captivated by India. They studied its languages, recorded its history, religions and culture and collected Indian works of art. Some men adopted Indian dress and customs.
This exhibition focuses on paintings and other works of art created by Indian artists for the British in India. Most were produced between 1780 and 1850. These vibrant and colourful souvenirs from a pre-photographic age are visual evidence of the British experience of the sub-continent. They provide a fascinating insight into early British and Indian interaction.
The paintings made by Indian artists for the British are called 'Company paintings' because they were made during the time of the East India Company and were often created for Company employees. Company painting emerged around 1770 and declined after the 1840s, particularly after photography was introduced to India.
Professional Indian artists were well-known at military stations and at places where travellers stopped off. They sold ready-made works and also undertook commissions. Indian soldiers were popular subjects for Indian paintings, which particularly appealed to the many British officers in India.
A selection of related images are available from our Print Shop.
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