Bengal to Bihar : a journey in paintings

In the 18th century, several European artists travelled to India seeking commissioned work, and the “exotic” adventure. From costumes to monuments, flora and fauna to occupations, inspiration was plenty. At the same time, British officials posted in India too, actively pursued an interest in documenting their “romantic” environs. Usually, these officers employed local artists to paint souvenirs for them, but there were also officer-artists such as Charles D’Oyly who sketched and painted.

D’Oyly (1781-1845) was a British public official and a member of the Bengal Civil Services based in Calcutta, Dhaka and Patna from 1797 to 1838.

In 1824, Charles D’Oyly undertook a journey from Calcutta to Patna – along the Hooghly, Bhagirathi and Ganges River.

During this voyage, he witnessed many monuments and sights that had gained popularity through the paintings of earlier artists such as William Hodges and the Daniell brothers. However, the opening of the direct railway line from Calcutta to Benares, pushed many of these oft-visited sites into neglect. D’Oyly thus realized the importance of documenting this journey and captured the views en route Patna. This journey culminated in 28 watercolour paintings featuring important landmarks, some of which still exist today. The paintings, part of an album is now part of the British Library collection.

Take a look at these 7 paintings from his journey from Bengal to Bihar. Test your heritage-awareness by filling in the blanks:

D’Oyly emerged as a prolific artist, publishing books with engravings & lithographs from his drawings in Patna. His work was much admired by the European community in Bengal and many tried to emulate him. When the river-boats docked-up for the night at Patna, many traveling Europeans would disembark, to visit him and see his drawings. Often they would request a sketch or a watercolour for their autograph albums. 

If you too, enjoyed D’Oyly’s paintings (and this quiz), don’t forget to share it ahead!

Compiled by Arunesh Varade

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