Company Paintings
Company Paintings Company Paintings

Company Paintings

Company Paintings

Company Paintings

17th Century - 19th Century

Company Paintings

Ethnographic mapping and documentation of a vast country like India was an important part of the political and economic expansion of the East India Company from the middle of the seventeenth century onwards.

This led the Company to invite several landscape and portrait artists from Europe and later, mainly Britain, to paint India.

Beginning with portraitist Tilly Kettle, and soon after by landscapist William Hodges, over the next century these artists painted extensively for the Company as well as for private patrons. Charles d’Oyly’s Views of Calcutta and its Environs, Thomas and William Daniells’ Oriental Scenery, and F. B. Solvyns’s The Costumes of Hindoostan and later, the Peoples of India series, shone light on India, her landscapes and lifestyles, for people in Europe.

In their wake, the Company commissioned artists to paint cities, monuments, flora and fauna, and recorded physiognomies, costumes and festivals of the people of India. Together, these paintings came to be regarded as the Company School.

A large number of Company painters were anonymous Indian artists and artisans from the impoverished courts of Murshidabad, Lucknow and Patna, and declining miniature schools, drawn into the service of European artists. Many of these paintings, aquatints and drawings featured in publications that were all the rage in Britain. Indians who painted in this style created an amalgamation of India’s miniature tradition and Western naturalist technique, incorporating European elements of depth and salon art features such as draperies and studio backdrops. Gradually, these paintings became frozen embodiments of colonial notions of Indian life, thus reducing the artists to artisans.

'From the moment European merchants landed in the country, they held a fascination (and, often, abhorrence) for India and her people. Not wanting to miss the spectacle, they commissioned artists of all manner to capture every moment'



dag exhibitions

'Indian Landscapes: The Changing Horizon'

DAG, New Delhi, 2012

'Birds of India: Company Paintings c. 1800 to 1835'

DAG, New Delhi, 2021

'Iconic Masterpieces of Indian Modern Art'

DAG, Mumbai, 2022

notable collections

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Mumbai, India

Textiles & Art of the People of India collection, Surat, India

Howard Hodgkin Indian Collection, U.K.

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minnesota, U.S.A.

Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Wallace Collection, London