F. B. Solvyns
F. B. Solvyns F. B. Solvyns

F. B. Solvyns

F. B. Solvyns

F. B. Solvyns

1760 - 1824

F. B. Solvyns

Marine painter and one of the early pioneers of printmaking in India, François Balthazar Solvyns was born in Antwerp, Belgium, on 6 July 1760, in a prominent merchant family.

Political unrest in Europe brought him to India to seek his fortune. Solvyns lived in Calcutta from 1791-1803, working on etchings portraying the city and the people of Bengal. He commenced by painting for the theatres, accepting small commissions, and sketching the islands of Andaman and Nicobar for the Surveyor-General of India, Alexander Kyd.

Encouraged by the Orientalist Sir William Jones, and British interest in the lifestyles of the Indians, Solvyns decided to produce a comprehensive record of Indian festivals, occupations, castes, musical instruments, asceticism, and transport. After limited printing in 1796, he published in 1799 A Collection of Two Hundred and Fifty Coloured Etchings, Descriptive of the Manners, Customs and Dress of the Hindoos, in Calcutta. Living in Paris from 1803 to 1814, Solvyns redid the etchings and published two hundred and eighty-eight plates in four volumes, titled Les Hindoûs.

These first-ever etchings are the earliest ethnographic survey of the people and their life in Bengal, encyclopaedic in nature and prototypes of the Company School of painting. Compelling, the figures are individual in character, an ordered portrayal of the Hindu caste division prevalent in society two hundred years ago. In that sense, Solvyns’s work becomes even more significant today from a historical and social perspective of India.

He returned to Antwerp from Paris in 1814, where he passed away on 10 October 1824.

'Solvyns appeals to us today precisely because he was a challenging artist, who does not seek to delight us, but to confront us, to engage us in a discussion about the world he shared here for a while'



dag exhibitions

'The Printed Picture: Four Centuries of Indian Printmaking'

DAG, New Delhi, 2012; Mumbai, 2016

'Ghare Baire: The World, The Home, and Beyond: 18th-20th Century Art in Bengal'

DAG, Kolkata, 2020

'The Hindus: Baltazard Solvyns in Bengal'

DAG, New Delhi, 2021

notable collections

Bibliothèque Nationale de France

Biblioteca de la Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain

Blanton Museum at the University of Texas at Austin

Cambridge University Library, United Kingdom

Collection of Robert L. Hardgrave, Jr

Edinburgh University Library, United Kingdom

George Peabody Library, Johns Hopkins University, USA

Médiathèque du musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac, Paris

Muséum national d'histoire naturelle, Paris

National Art Library, Victoria and Albert Museum, London

University of Manchester Library, United Kingdom

University of Oxford, United Kingdom