William Hodges & the Prospect of India

William Hodges & the Prospect of India

William Hodges & the Prospect of India

Gallery Exhibition

William Hodges & the Prospect of India

New Delhi: 22A, Janpath Road, Windsor Place, New Delhi
22 December 2023 - 25 January 2024
10:30 am – 7:00 pm

William Hodges (1744-97) was a pioneer in more ways than one. He was the first British landscape painter to visit India, and to portray scenery across the whole breadth of the Gangetic plain. As a writer, he gave the first detailed descriptions of numerous historic Indian buildings, and he theorised about the origins and evolution of Indian architectural design. His art illustrates his exploration into terrain which—in its breadth and scope—was at the time almost as unfamiliar to Indian as to Western eyes.

Having earlier sailed to the South Pacific with Captain Cook, in 1772-75, Hodges seized the chance to visit another region of British exploration and conquest. For nearly four years between 1780 and 1783, he lived and travelled in India, under the patronage of the first Governor General, Warren Hastings.

On returning to London, between 1785 and 1788, he published a series of 48 aquatints of Select Views in India, which he engraved himself (anticipating the later work of Thomas and William Daniell). In his prints, Hodges shows us temples and holy cities; ancient and modern forts; mosques, tombs and caravanserais; and even utilitarian structures such as bridges. These are set in varied landscapes from the hills of Bihar to the rivers of modern-day Uttar Pradesh.

In this exhibition—the first time a full set has been displayed together—the plates are arranged geographically. We travel with Hodges, westwards, from the colonial settlements of the Hooghly, upriver via Murshidabad and Rajmahal, through Benares and Allahabad, to Agra and Gwalior, while pausing at many less well-known places along the route. We travel back in time, two and a half centuries, to rediscover lost monuments and forgotten landscapes.

All 48 works are aquatint engravings, tinted with watercolour on paper.

"Gentlemen who have resided long in India lose the idea of the first impression which that very curious country makes upon an entire stranger: the novelty is soon effaced, and the mind, by a common and natural operation, directs its views to more abstract speculation; reasoning assumes the place of observation, and the traveller is lost in the philosopher." - - William Hodges, Travels in India, 1793

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