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Two Drawings from The Fraser Album
William Fraser (1783-1835) was employed in the East India Company from his arrival in Bengal in 1799, until his assassination in Delhi in 1835. His brother James Baillie Fraser (1783-1856), an amateur artist and author, joined him in India in 1814. Between 1815 and 1820 the brothers commissioned a collection of watercolours. This group of over ninety drawings by Indian artists, discovered amongst the Fraser Papers in 1979, is arguably one of the finest groups of Company School pictures yet known.
The Fraser Album drawings are amongst the earliest of Company School works. The names of the artists are not known, but the collection represents the diverse range of people to be seen in Delhi and its environs and includes portraits of the Emperor, his courtiers, dancing girls, musicians, Afghan horse-dealers, ascetics and villagers bringing in their rent. Local costumes, customs, architecture and scenery, are recorded in exquisite detail. The brothers also commissioned works while travelling through the Himalayas on their return from the Nepal War (1814-15).
These drawings have 'not only made a great contribution to knowledge of the work of Indian artists in early nineteenth-century Delhi, but provide an unsurpassed record of life in and around the old Mughal capital before chaos and the new British administration brought that rich culture to an end' (M. Archer and T. Falk, India Revealed The Art and Adventures of James and William Fraser 1801-1835, London, 1989, p. 57).