Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Indian empire: multiple realities

Today I was lucky enough to catch the above exhibition at the Art Gallery. It was due to close on 3 January.

The official blurb sums it up:

When foreigners started arriving in India centuries ago, they were captivated by the people, architecture, customs and costumes. By the late 18th century, when the British presence was more widespread through India, artists were commissioned to portray the world the foreigners had encountered.

The imaging of India coincided with the development of new, multiple printing techniques such as lithography and, from the 1850s, photography. These new media enabled Indians and foreigners alike to enjoy landscapes, temples and portraits, produced locally according to varying regional traditions. At the same time, throughout India local traditions of painting and embroidery continued.

This ambitious exhibition presents aspects of the Indian empire when patrons were as diverse as Indian maharajas, East India Company employees, and the military and administrative personnel of the British Raj.

I had tried to catch this on a couple of occasions but life got in the way.

There was a nice painting of Warren Hastings, Calcutta Council member in 1761 and first Governor General of India in 1773. The photo really doesn't do this painting justice.

Hastings in 1810 by John Masquerier

There were also engravings and/ or  lithographs of Sepoys of the 3rd Bombay Battalion in 1773 (the same as in Osprey's Plassey), scenes from the Sikh wars and from the Mutiny.

What I found quite amazing were a series of vibrantly coloured and original paintings of Indian processions on sheets of mica. Lots of photographs from the 1850s as well.

Moghul courtier c.1770

The downsides? Well, firstly it will close soon. Secondly there was no book to buy or printed guide to grab. Thirdly, there was a no photography rule, strictly enforced. Finally, when I had the occasional chance to grab a photo, my phone camera wasn't up to it... I really wanted copies of those mica artworks.


  1. Fascinating stuff. I've greatly enjoyed your recent posts, particularly the piece about the platform mounted cannon.

    Scratch building a 1/72 example is a long cherished pipe dream.

  2. Thanks Conrad!

    Sometimes I wonder whether the mix of posts is what people want to see. So feedback is good!


  3. I emailed the Gallery yesterday to see when the exhibition closes. Strangely, the response was that it closed on 3 January and been packed away. Strange how they don't seem to know that it is still on!

    And they can't provide copies of the exhibits I wanted : (