DAG Announces A Pioneering Exhibition Of Company Paintings Devoted Entirely To Indian Birds

DAG announces a pioneering exhibition of Company Paintings devoted entirely to Indian birds

Opening 04 September 2021

New Delhi: In honour of the unknown Indian masters commissioned by the East India Company in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and in keeping with the commitment of taking Indian art to wider audiences, DAG presents the first-ever exhibition in India dedicated to an extraordinary selection of Company Paintings of Indian birds, entirely from the gallery collection. Combining the delicacy and details of Mughal atelier-trained artists with the refinement and rationalisation of European art, the works signify a hybrid Indian art of rare and exceptional beauty, a style unique to the Indian subcontinent whose patronage was almost entirely British. Curated by Dr. Giles Tillotson, Senior VP Exhibitions and Publications at DAG, it is accompanied by a book that delivers a wide-ranging study of birds through Company Paintings–undertaken for the very first time in the country.

Opening on 4 September 2021 at DAG, The Claridges, New Delhi, the pioneering exhibition features 125 paintings from the albums of:

  • Cunninghame Graham (1800-1804)–the most extraordinary feat of 99 paintings in this exhibition;
  • The c. 1810 album of birds from north-east India with their exaggeratedly vivid colours–the finest works on natural history painted in India;
  • The Faber album from c. 1830 in which the artist’s observations contribute to the ornithological studies expounded in this exhibition;
  • And lastly, the 4 folios by Chuni Lal of Patna—the only one artist that remains identified–from the never-seen-before 1835 Edward Inge album.

Together these four groups illustrate the development of Company Paintings through a single genre. The birds depicted in this exhibition include raptors, game birds, coastal waders and many woodland and forest birds, some very familiar and several that are now scarce.

Mr. Ashish Anand, CEO and MD, DAG, said,

“DAG has been an ardent champion of Indian art over the last twenty-five years. Our partnership with the Wallace Collection in 2019 for Forgotten Masters: Indian Painting for the East India Company highlights our commitment to the oft-neglected genre of Company Paintings, a commitment we are taking forward by showcasing Birds of India, the first of its kind, entirely from the DAG collection”

Birds have always featured in Indian art. Some geese, somewhat idealised, endowed with luxuriant crests, appear in the Ajanta murals. Naturalistic portraits of recognisable species reached perfection in Mughal art under Emperor Jahangir. Connected developments emerged out of that Mughal practice in the late 18th century in Lucknow and Calcutta, where artists worked to commissions from European patrons. The pioneering efforts of General Claude Martin, Lady Impey and Dr. William Roxburgh and their artists inspired others, giving rise to a larger body of Company Painting dedicated to natural history.

Marking a landmark moment of cultural exchange, this exhibition celebrates the rare amalgamation of artistic practices from India and Europe and aims to contribute to ornithological studies making this a pioneering exhibition in the evolving study of Indian art history undertaken by DAG.

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