From the Buddhist pilgrims (Fa Hien and Huang Tsang) to the adventure travellers (Marco Polo and Ibn Batuta), India has been the travel destination for centuries. Long before ‘Incredible India’ and its catchy jingle, it was the accounts of these travellers that brought people from around the world to our doors. These accounts described the beauty and richness of Indian heritage, and their readers yearned to experience the exotic for themselves. While some managed to secure a passage to India, others could not. Now, it was up to the traveller artists to transfer India’s allure onto their canvases and let others experience India through their paintings.
These traveller artists came from varied backgrounds. Some were authors, poets and musicians, others historians and geographers. A few were even public officials, soldiers and war correspondents! But whether they drew monuments from a bygone era, captured the splendours of the Mughal court, or painted the bright bazaars full of spice and colour, these 19th and 20th century artists knew how to breathe life into their work and make their audiences feel acquainted with a land they had never set foot in.
We’ve compiled some itineraries for you, and our favourite ones are:
1. An architectural adventure with Vasily Vereshchagin
Originally a Russian war painter, Vasily Vereshchagin took on a different subject in India. His paintings from his visit to India, first in 1873 and then in 1884, capture the most amazing architectural features; be it of a small monastery in Ladakh or a grand monument like the Taj. Much like Nicholas Roerich, a 20th c. Russian painter, Vereshchagin was also enamoured by the colossal Himalayas. But what set him apart from other painters of his time was his attention to detail. This combined with his use of bright colours created a realistic reproduction of late 19th c. India.
You can see more of his journey through India on our YouTube Video!
2. Explore India’s natural beauty with Marianne North
At a time when women travelling alone were frowned upon, Marianne North
Marianne recorded her adventures in her diary. About her Shimla residence she wrote:
3. A postcard journey across India with Hiroshi Yoshida
From the Golden Temple to the Sanchi gateway, Hiroshi Yoshida captured all the major sights of India within his postcard sized paintings. Travelling in the 1930’s, Yoshida used his native Japanese technique of woodblock printing called ukiyo-e. However, this technique faced a set-back with the rise of photography. In order to revive the method, artists, including Yoshida, adopted the Shin hanga method where artists carved and painted bamboo blocks to print images. Yoshida learnt both carving and painting, so that he could create these miniatures from any corner of the world.
These are only 3 of the many, many artists who travelled India. Check out on our playlist to know more such stories!
Have you been paying attention? Take a quick look at the paintings again and come back to test your knowledge of traveller-artists! How many places can you match correctly with their corresponding paintings?
For more such games and quizzes, check our our Museum-Mojo section. You can also subscribe to our newsletter so you don’t miss out on any of them!