It was between 1786 and 1793 that English artists Thomas Daniell (1749-1840) and his nephew William Daniell (1769-1837) travelled the length and breadth of India. First from Calcutta, across the Gangetic plain to Delhi then up into the hills of Garhwal, before retracing the route back via Lucknow to Calcutta then setting out from Madras in a large loop through what is now Tamil Nadu and finally to Bombay, to explore the rock-cut temples of western India.
Now, more than two centuries later, their work&mdashOriental Scenery&mdashhas been brought to Mumbai for the general public. The complete and rare set of 144 aquatints represents the single largest and most impressive project that depicts Indian architecture and landscape.
About the Aquatints
Issued in pairs between March 1795 and December 1808, the aquatints were produced upon the English artists&rsquo return to Britain. The series remains the single most extensive pictorial documentation of the landscape and architecture of India by any artist.
The exhibition, i.e. &lsquoVision & Landscape&rsquo, was opened on October 10 at DAG, Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai. It has been assembled based on the original six volumes, each with twenty-four aquatints. The exhibition was first exhibited at Drishyakala at Red Fort, New Delhi, a museum exhibition organised by DAG in collaboration with the Archaeological Survey of India, where it remained on view for three years.
Curated by Dr Giles Tillotson, writer and lecturer on Indian history and architecture, the exhibition is accompanied by a dedicated book with essays by noted historian Jerry Losty who recounts the history of the manuscript and mines it for information regarding the Daniells&rsquo working methods. On the other hand, acclaimed historian David Arnold questions the Daniells&rsquo interpretation and depiction of India, specifically noting their tendency to exclude from their views any hint of the violence of conquest that was raging around them, especially in southern India, which was then in the grip of the Mysore Wars.
About the Artists
Thomas Daniell was trained as a landscape painter at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. His initial struggle to find work in the genre ended when he found employment as an engraver for the East India Company in India. He was accompanied by his nephew William Daniell (also a painter and engraver) and spent seven years in India documenting its diverse landscapes, architecture, and ways of living. Once they returned to England, the Daniells published a six-volume work Oriental Scenery (1795-1808), bringing together one hundred and forty-four aquatints that showcased views ranging from Mughal monuments and temples to the unexplored jungles of south India.