Commissioned by the East India Company, an exhibition dedicated to birds in India

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In honor of the unknown Indian masters commissioned by the East India Company in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, DAG presents the very first exhibition in India devoted to a selection of the Company’s Indian bird paintings, entirely from the gallery’s collection.

Combining the delicacy and details of studio-trained Mughal artists with the refinement and rationalization of European art, the works represent a hybrid Indian art of rare and exceptional beauty, a style unique to the Indian subcontinent whose patronage was almost entirely British.

Organized by Dr Giles Tillotson, Senior Vice President of Exhibitions and Publications at DAG, it is accompanied by a book that features an extensive study of birds through corporate paintings – undertaken for the very first time in the country .

“Our partnership with the Wallace Collection in 2019 for Forgotten Masters: Indian Painting for the East India Company underscores our commitment to the often overlooked genre of corporate paintings, a commitment we are continuing by presenting Birds of India, the first of the kind, ”said Ashish Anand, CEO of DAG.

Some of the highlights include the c. 1810 album of birds of northeast India with their exaggeratedly vivid colors, the Faber album of c. 1830 where the artist’s observations contribute to the ornithological studies exhibited in this exhibition; as well as the 4 folios of Chuni Lal de Patna – the only artist that remains identified – from the unpublished album by Edward Inge of 1835.

Birds featured in this exhibit include raptors, game birds, coastal waders, and many woodland and forest birds, some very familiar and several that are now rare. Birds have always figured in Indian art. A few geese, somewhat idealized, with lush ridges, appear in Ajanta’s murals. Naturalistic portraits of recognizable species reached perfection in Mughal art under Emperor Jahangir.

Related developments emerged from this Mughal practice in the late 18th century in Lucknow and Calcutta, where artists worked for 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 greater number of corporate paintings dedicated to natural history.

Marking a historic moment of cultural exchange, this exhibition celebrates the rare fusion of artistic practices from India and Europe and aims to contribute to ornithological studies, making it a pioneering exhibition in the evolutionary study of the Indian art history.


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