William Hodges and the Prospect of India’- Recent show by DAG accompanied a tempting book treasuring aquatints of Hodge’s engravings

Tracing English painter-engraver’s sojourn though Bengal, Bihar and other provinces, DAG, Delhi displayed a full set of 48 aquatints of various landscape engravings made by Hodges, these paintings could easily make people swoon with visual delight until they lose track of time.  

Curated by Giles Tillotson, senior VP, Exhibitions, DAG, this is the first time a full set has been displayed together—the plates are arranged geographically from the colonial settlements of the Hooghly, upriver via Murshidabad and Rajmahal, through Benares and Allahabad, to Agra and Gwalior. All 48 works are aquatint engravings, tinted with watercolour on paper  rediscovering lost monuments and forgotten landscapes.

William Hodges and the Prospect of India, immerse into the subcontinent through vivid hues of the famous English painter-engraver. The breathtaking view of Fort of Agra on the River Jumna painted by William Hodges in 1786 depicts the Taj Mahal lurking through a veil of dreamy mist.

A View of Chinsura, the Dutch settlement of Bengal Hand-tinted engraving on paper

In the foreground, men row boats on the Yamuna, and beyond the dense shrubbery that crowds it rises the ramparts of Agra fort, menacing and vast, the painting perhaps served as the first glimpse of India’s most famous architectural landscape.

“The works on display are all aquatints. He has then added watercolour by hand. The Picturesque favours such a controlled palette. The use of vibrant colours to capture India’s vitality is a feature of later European art, from the late 19th Century,” as per Giles.

In A View of Chinsura, Hodges paints the Government House with the Old Dutch Church on the waterfront and the bell tower in shades of white and brown. 

A View of a Hill Village in the District of Baugelepoor 1787 Soft-ground etching and aquatint on paper

It is perhaps a rare record of these buildings as they were demolished in 1990. Shades of green and gold crowd the landscape in A View in the Jungle Terry, a painting that celebrates the forests in the foothills of the Himalayas. 

Besides these engraving, Hodges also enlivened the great Pagoda at Tanjore, offering the viewer a glimpse of life along a great cultural icon of the South.

William Hodges came to the subcontinent  in the 18th century as a pioneer of sorts to “remedy Europe’s visual ignorance of India. His work is depleted of British insignias like pennants and red coats, bonnets and pith helmets but capture the cities and towns that once flourished in the heyday of Mughal rule, which suggests that Hodges was aversive of British India. 

Images by DAG – https://dagworld.com/william-hodges-the-prospect-of-india.html

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