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Forgotten Masters: Indian Painting for the East India Company at the Wallace Collection

posted on 25/11/19

In December 2019, the Wallace Collection will present their forthcoming exhibition: Forgotten Masters: Indian Painting for the East India Company (4 December 2019–19 April 2020) in collaboration with Delhi-based DAG. The exhibition is guest curated by renowned writer and historian William Dalrymple, the author of bestselling books In Xanadu and City of Djinns.

‘Forgotten Masters’ is the first UK exhibition of works by Indian master painters commissioned by East India Company officials in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This unprecedented collection presents the unique opportunity to see incredibly beautiful and detailed artworks, which are considered amongst the greatest masterpieces of Indian painting.

The compilation of works reflect a wide variety of Indian traditions, shifting the emphasis from the Company commissioners onto the brilliance of the Indian creators. These paintings were appointed by a diverse cross-section of East India Company officials, ranging from botanists, surgeons, and diplomats to itinerant British artists and intellectuals.

Traditionally described as ‘Company School’ painting, these images offer a rare glimpse of daily life on the sub-continent, from the beauty of the natural world to social activities. The exhibition not only celebrates historically overlooked artists such as Shaikh Zain ud-Din and Bhawani Das but also the diversity of work to have emerged from this period, with contributions from Mughal, Marathi, Punjabi, Pahari, Tamil and Telugu artists.

In addition to these fascinating works, a Mughal dagger will also be on display. The dagger was formerly owned by Claude Martin, one of the most prominent East India Company officials. It was under his patronage that great Lucknavi artists, such as Bahadur Singh and Mihr Chand, combined their Mughal training with European conventions and materials to produce innovative works of art.

Wallace Collection Director and MRT lecturer Dr Xavier Bray, says:

“We are very excited to bring these exquisite works together for the first time in the UK, belatedly recognising the genius of Indian artists from this period, who are largely unknown in the West. We hope this exhibition will introduce a wider audience to one of the most interesting but often underappreciated phases of Indian painting, as well as explore the Wallace’s rich collection of Mughal arms and armour.”

Dr Xavier Bray leads Spanish Art in London (30 November 2019), Caravaggio: From Lombardy to Naples, via Rome (1–8 February 2020) and Goya: Zaragoza & Madrid (7–12 September 2020).

Caption for the above image: Shaikh Zain ud-Din, ‘Indian Roller on Sandalwood Branch’, 1780, Gift of Elizabeth and Willard Clark, © Minneapolis Institute of Art.


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