THE DANIELLS IN INDIA
Of the great European artists working on the Indian subcontinent in the 18th and 19th centuries, it was undoubtably the Daniells, Thomas (1749-1840) and his nephew William (1769-1837), who played a pre-eminent role in recording and documenting the country. Their seven-year tour of India from 1786 to 1793 and the subsequent publication of their work brought to the public in Britain an unrivalled view of the scenery and architecture of this fabled and exotic land. Other artists, notably William Hodges, who made a tour up the Ganges in 1780-83, provided inspiration for the Daniells. Encouraged by Hodges's work, the Daniells set off from England in 1786 to make their fortune in India and in their six years ventured further than any previous artist, completing three tours around India: up the Ganges from Calcutta to Srinagar, 1788-91, a circular tour around Mysore from Madras, 1792-93, and finally on their return journey to England in 1793 visiting Bombay and its sites, sketching and drawing as they travelled.
Arriving back in London in 1794 the Daniells turned this substantial number of on-site sketches into finished watercolours and oil paintings. On the basis of that work alone the Daniells would have secured a prominent place in the history of Anglo-Indian art, but they then embarked on a grand and expensive project to translate their watercolours into print form. From 1795 to 1808 they concentrated on producing aquatint prints for their views of India, a work they titled Oriental Scenery. The work was sold in parts as groups of plates, allowing subscribers to pay for the venture over a long period, and also giving the Daniells on-going finance for copper plates, paper and team of engravers. Through exhibitions of their oil paintings at the Royal Academy and British Institution in London in the early 1800s they captured the attention and interest of the British public, focusing on this distant part of the British Empire. By 1808 the selection of aquatint views had been completed, to be bound in six volumes with a total of 144 plates, the hand coloured aquatints capturing the subtlety of the watercolour, the dusky and bright tones of the colourists bringing to life the scenery and architecture of India. The first 69 lots of this catalogue comprise a complete collection of the aquatint prints from Oriental Scenery, collected as a composite group of prints in the early 19th century, all printed on thick deluxe paper or on specially mounted thin paper. They are offered in pairs or individually and are arranged in the order of the historical course of the Daniells travels around India. As the tourist sees this exciting country today, so we can now see the same wonders and sites through the eyes of these artist travellers two centuries ago.
For further reading on the Daniells and their aquatints of India see Mildred Archer's work, Early Views of India: The Picturesque Views of Thomas and William Daniell, 1786-1794, London, 1980.
I. The First Tour:"The Ganges", August 1788-November 1791 (lots 1-42)
Following the completion of the views of Calcutta published between 1786 and 1788 in Calcutta (see lot 187), the Daniells started preparing for their first tour in India, up country.
It was an adventurous trip, and needed careful preparation. They planned to spend a year or more travelling up the Ganges as far as Srinagar and therefore sought the advice of friends such as Charles Wilkins, William Hunter, Major William Palmer, and the Frenchman Colonel Claude Martin. They plotted a route which would take in the greatest number of interesting sites, taking into account the vagaries of the climate: the hottest months of the year were to be spent in the hills, whilst the monsoon rains of July and August would be used to complete their sketches in places where they could receive a comfortable hospitality.
A tour of this type was a formidable undertaking. The Daniells had no great reserves of money, and had to travel economically. They could afford only a few servants: they had two attendants, a house steward, table servant, watchman and two tent pitchers, but they were determined to succeed in their venture and hoped for assistance from compatriots that they would meet during the journey. Fortunately, a large part of their itinerary is documented by the diary kept by William from the day they left until 30 January 1790, with only a minor interruption between 19 May and 8 July 1789.
The Daniells left Calcutta (lots 1-3) on 3 September 1788 sailing along the River Hooghly, passing the settlements of Chinsurah, Hooghly, and Bandell (4). After a halt in Murshidabad, which they left on 8 October 1788, they sailed to Bhagalpur, stopping off at Rajmahal and at the Sakrigali promontory (5). In Bhagalpur, they stayed with their friend Samuel Davis. They then continued their journey via Patna (6) before reaching Maner (7) on 13 November 1788. After a halt in Ghazipur, they decided to move quickly to join a British military party in Fatehgarh, who were planning to visit Agra and Delhi. They therefore sailed past Benares and Allahabad, making only sketches from the river (8, 9), reserving their exploration of the local picturesque sites for their return journey. On the last week of December 1788, they arrived in Cawnpore, from where they travelled overland to Fatehgarh. Travelling outside the East India Company's territory, they took advantage of the protection of the armed force, and together set off for Agra, which they reached on 20 January 1789, pitching their tents just opposite the Taj Mahal. Five days were thus spent drawing the mausoleum (10) and the Red Fort. On 25 January they moved on to Sikandra to draw Akbar's mausoleum (11). After halts in Mathura (12) and Brindabad, they arrived at Delhi on 16 February 1789. They found the city so crowded with fine buildings and ruins that they stayed two and a half weeks (13-19).
However, with the hot season approaching, the Daniells set off for the coolness of the Himalayas on 6 March 1789. Arriving in Najibabad on 25 March 1789 (19), they had to wait a few weeks for a permission to enter the state of Srinagar. In the company of two officers, they continued on 18 April, reaching Kodtwara (19) before following the Khoh river (20) to Srinagar. After making several halts in Jhawanu, (20), Diosa, the Ramganga valley (21), and Takandhar (22), they arrived at the foot of Srinagar (23) on 27 April 1789, some of the first Europeans to visit the area. The local Rajah soon visited them, wanting them to support him in a local war with his brother, the ruler of the neighbouring Kumaon state. The British party therefore quickly decided to leave Srinagar on 3 May 1789, travelling down to the plains via a slightly different route (22).
Starting their return journey to Calcutta, the Daniells planned to stay in Lucknow for two months during the monsoon rains. On 8 May they reached Najibabad, then, after passing through Najina, Kashipur, Rampur and making a detour to see the Hafiz Ramut mosque in Pilibhit (24), arrived at Khachla, on the Ganges. They sailed on down to Kanauj, famous for its ruins (25). Leaving the boat at Cawnpore, they moved on to Lucknow, arriving in July 1789 (27).
There, they stayed with Claude Martin, who, as a trusted advisor of the local nawab, Asaf-ud-Daula, introduced them to both the British community and the Indian nobility. They took advantage of their relative rest to complete their sketches, limiting their excursions to local places of interest, such as Faizabad (26). Thomas was even asked by Martin to finish some sketches by Zoffany in his possession.
By mid-October, the Daniells resumed their journey: As they needed to reach Bhagalpur by the next hot season, they wanted time to visit the places they had had to pass by on their journey upstream: by 30 October 1789 they reached Allahabad, where they spent about a week (29-31). After a four-day halt (13-16 November 1789) in Churnaghar (32), they moved on to Benares to draw the many buildings they had failed to record so far (33). On 26 November, they were in Jaunpur, once known as the Shiraz of India (34), returning to Benares again on 16 December 1789. They left on 29 December to tour the hill-forts in the jungle region south of Chunargarh: this tour led them through Pattihata, Latipfur, Lohra, Semariea, Bijaigarh, a region still relatively inaccessible today. By the 12 January 1790, they reached Agori (35), with its picturesque views of temples submerged by banyan trees. On their way back North to the River Son, they passed through Ramgarh (36), visited the ruined temple of Mandasvarato, then drew to Chainpur, where they were attracted by the Muslim idgah (37). Continuing their route via Bhabua, they halted for some time in Sasaram, exhausted by the fatigues of their journey. Before drawing back to the Ganges, they set off for the fort of Rotasgarh (38), passing along the Pool of Smoke at Dhuan Kund (36). Having finished their work, they retreated via the same route to Gaya by way of Deo and Madanpur (39). In Gaya they were fascinated by the sacred banyan tree (40).
With the approach of the summer heat, they hastened back to the Ganges, and sailed back to Bhagalpur. Here they stayed almost a year in Bhagalpur with their friend Samuel Davis. A few more excursions were made (such as to the Fakir's Rock at Sultanganj (41)), but they spent most of their time working up their sketches into full watercolours and over 100 oil paintings. Their main concern was to set up a lottery sale in Calcutta to raise sufficient money to continue with their journeys in Southern India. After the end of the rain season in late 1791, they set off for Calcutta: near Rajmahal, their baggage boat capsized, but fortunately, all the drawings were kept with them and remained unharmed. After a last stop in Gaur (42), they arrived back in Calcutta in November 1791, two years after setting out.
Please note that all prints in these lots are sold in window mounts, unframed. Lots 1-69.
Unless otherwise stated, the quotations of the following catalogue notes are taken from the journal that William Daniell kept during part of the journey, published by M. Hardie and M. Clayton, Walker's Quarterly, 1932, pp.1-106, nos 35-36, and from the small octavo texts published by Thomas Daniell with each part of Oriental Scenery, London, 1795-1808, 6 vols.
The Abbey references refer to the collection catalogue of Major J. R. Abbey, Travel in Aquatint and Lithography 1770-1860, vol. II, London, 1957.