Colonial painter who potrayed Indian landscape to the fullest

Colonial painter who potrayed Indian landscape to the fullest
The period of colonial rule in India was important from the point of view of art in different ways. It is from the works of the early, and if I may add, highly accomplished artists, who wandered into ‘exotic India’, on the heels of sundry British, French, Dutch, Danish and Portuguese visitors.

By faithfully documenting what they saw, they left behind splendid images of our ancient monuments, cities and people. Recently, Delhi Art Gallery had brought a number of these paintings into focus at a well-researched and visually splendid exhibition devoted to ‘Landscape Painting’. We hope, somewhere in not so distant future, the gallery will also consider an exhibition on the vast number of portraits that these artists had created during their stay in India.

Among the more popular ‘amateur’ artists of British India, Sir Charles D’Oyly, the son of a senior member of the East India Company was born Calcutta in Murshidabad in 1781 and educated in England, where his father was a resident of the East India Company at the court of Nawab Babur Ali of Murshidabad. He went to England for his formal education and following in his father’s footsteps, decided to return to India at 17, to join the ‘company’ and serve in a number of offices in different locations including Dhaka, where he served as a collector.

He also painted scenes of Bihar, Rajmahal, Serampore and Calcutta. Among his most famous works is his painting of the Saint Paul’s Cathedral. While based in Calcutta, he took lessons from George Chinnery, a popular portrait painter in the city, acquiring from him enough knowledge to become quite adept and gaining quite a reputation of his own.

Posted at Patna during 12 years between 1821 and 1833, D’Oyly is known to have painted a large number of works, which brought him considerable popularity. His position at the company offered D’Oyly access to people and situations that others may have missed out on. A generous host, whenever travellers arrived in boats to stop for the night at Patna, he made it his business to entertain them and allowed them to see his drawings.

With his insatiable curiosity and perceptive eye, Charles’ faithfully reproduced images of the surrounding area. His considerable charm and entertainment helped to fuel his fame as an artist.

Among his many famous paintings and etchings of India done in graphic detail, are his splendid portraits of British officials and some delightful ink and watercolour paintings of Indian women, which he sketched on the spot.

Soon, other amateur British and Indian artists began following his example in their quest for art and he always had a band of younger artists, which also included Indian artists, who took lessons from him. Admired by one and all, D’Oyly founded an Art Society in Patna known as ‘The United Patna and Gaya Society’, which was also referred to as the ‘Behar School of Athens’.

D’Oyly’s works are at the Victoria Memorial in Kolkata and a large collection of D’Oyly’s works may also be seen at the British Museum in London — a must for any visitor interested in the artist’s work.

(The writer is a winner of many advertising design awards and a painter of repute)

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