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COMPANY PAINTING

Background

In the 18th and 19th centuries, Indian artists were employed mainly by the British East India Company, and, to a lesser extent, by other European East India companies to record picturesque sites, monuments, festivals, royalty, zenana and nautchkhana

Some Insights:

  • A blend of Indian and European styles, these works are known as the Company painting or the Kampani Kalam in local parlance
  • As Muslim Rule saw its dusk, Many of the artists flocked to newer patrons—the East India Company officials based in Delhi, Lucknow, Patna, Murshidabad, Kolkata, Trichy and other places
  • This brought them under the influence of European counterparts such as Thomas and William Daniell, William Hodges, Johann Zoffany and Frans Balthazar Solvyns
  • Visual vocabulary in painting transformed to include the use of perspective, the move from gouache to watercolour and softer palettes.
  • An example of this was a depiction of the marriage procession of a Muslim bridegroom (Day Scene, Patna, circa 1813) by Sewak Ram
  • In the Company paintings, artists captured daily life for British sahibs to share with their families in England, or the scientific studies of flora and fauna in an age of discovery
  • The stories of artists such as Sewak Ram and Shaikh Muhammad Amir of Karraya lend insight into the lives of Company painters—the former, who worked from 1790-1826, used to be the most prolific and influential of the Patna painters
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September 2022
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