Marius Bauer: a Dutch artist’s impressions of India

200 years after Rembrandt sought inspiration from India (mughal miniatures), the Dutch painter Marius Bauer travelled to the subcontinent to capture its exotic sceneries and colourful life. His readings of oriental literature had sparked his interest in the region and with support from the Amsterdam-based art dealer, E.J. van Wisselingh, he travelled to Istanbul at the age of 21. Bauer further travelled to Turkey, Palestine, Egypt, Indonesia, Bali, and far-eastern places like China[map]. It is believed though that India and Turkey inspired him the most.

Bauer travelled to India twice. Once around 1897-98, when he was a fairly unknown artist; in 4 months he journeyed from Bombay to Benares, Agra, Gwalior, Muttra (Mathura), Deeg, Bharatpur, Vrindavan, Delhi, Jaipur, Udaipur, Ajmer, Palitana, Baroda and Hyderabad. For his travels, he consulted Murray’s Handbook for travellers in India(1883), and relied upon the local tourist offices of Thomas Cook.

He returned to India again in 1924-25, by which time he was a celebrated artist. This time he took the following route, entering India after a tour of Ceylon (Sri Lanka):

Route 1: Madurai-Tanjore-Madras
Route 2: Hyderabad – Aurangabad – Bombay
Route 3: Udaipur – Ajmer – Mount Abu – Jaipur
Route 4: Delhi – Agra – Gwalior
Route 5: Benaras – Kolkata

Arriving at Palitana, Gujarat | pencil, chalk, watercolour and gouache on paper

On his second tour, Bauer revisited some locations, though his first visit also included Palitana, in Gujarat (pictured above). Marvelling at the Jain temple complex, he wrote about it to his mother in a letter. To the art dealer, E.J. van Wisselingh he wrote:

“…Order one thousand etching plates, thousand reams of paper, for a thousand Akëdysserils! We will earn thousands of guilders…”

Marius Bauer’s paintings of India

While traveling to different cities, Bauer made sketches and drawings at different locations. It was only later that he developed those into etchings, watercolours and paintings with his characteristic, impressionistic stroke (short brush strokes that give an overall visual effect instead of details).

Many of the paintings in this post are from the Rijksmuseum [see note in the end]

“Oh, he who has not seen Benares has seen nothing”
– Marius Bauer

On Bauer’s first visit, he was fascinated by Benaras.

“[…] the upper portions of the temples lit with a pink glow, and in the semidarkness of the great shadows of buildings
are the raging crowds so great and beautiful that it reminds me of a dream. Oh, he who has not seen Benares has seen nothing.”

painting marius bauer of varanasi: Cutout of the steps leading into the Ganges River, India. In the middle a large stone staircase, on the left you can still see the Ramawahat Ghat (Ram Ghat) and on the right the Brij Rama Palace. Scattered people on the stairs and in the left foreground a boat in the river.
Benaras (1913), Rijksmuseum, CC0. Description : Steps leading into the Ganges River, India. In the middle a large stone staircase, on the left you can still see the Ram Ghat and on the right the Brij Rama Palace. 

Take a look at some more paintings of Benaras by Marius Bauer

Marius Bauer in Agra

“…I’ve seen the Taj Mahal and everything disappears for the moment from my memory, that marvel of marble repressed everything from my head, I’m nothing but delight, nothing but ‘Taj’.”

Elephant Gate of the Old Fort, Agra 1898 (watercolour), Pulchri Studio

Fatehpur Sikri, Agra

Fatehpur Sikri | British Musuem CC-BY SA

After visiting Agra, Bauer also travelled to Mathura, and Gwalior.

Mosque in Mathura : two versions (etching-left; watercolour-right)
Gwalior,1898, Nelson Atkins Museum

Bauer also spent time at the Deeg Palace, the summer resort of the Bharatpur royal family.

“The walls [of the palaces] seem like ice, the domes of crystal, their golden peaks sparkling like diamonds. Not a stain disfigures it, it is as pure as snow. A little darker in color, but just as tense the image is reflected in the water, in which the stars are floating as if in a second firmament.”

The Palace of the Radjah of Bharatpur, 1917 (oil on canvas), Museum Boijmans van Beuningen (Rotterdam)

It took the ruins of the Qutub for Bauer to fall in love with Delhi

“… maybe the most beautiful ruins in the world”, he wrote in a letter about the Purana Qila (Old Fort) . He also found the ‘Friday Mosque in Delhi’, quite impressive. Take a look at his sketches and paintings of Delhi in which the Jama Masjid features prominently.

City Wall in India, 1898 – 1900, Public Domain, Rijksmuseum
Red Fort
Dome with Peacocks (Jaipur Region), 1925 [Pulchi Studio]

Marius Bauer found Jaipur to be the most beautiful city in India. He continued his travels onward to Ajmer and Udaipur.

Amber Fort, Jaipur (India)

Marius Bauer in Hyderabad

A street with two city gates in Hyderabad, British India. Several riders on horseback on the street. Source: Rijksmuseum

You can find Marius Bauer’s paintings in the collections of:

Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam), Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam), University Museum (Leiden, Netherlands), Gemeentemuseum (Den Haag), Mesdag Collectie (Den Haag), Dordrechts Museum (Dordrecht), Glasgow Museums, (Glasgow), Washington County Museum of Fine Arts (Hagerstown), Teylersmuseum (Haarlem), Singermuseum (Laren), Tate Gallery (Londen), Kröller-Müller Museum (Otterlo), Museum Boijmans van Beuningen (Rotterdam), Centraal Museum (Utrecht), Kunsthandel Bies.

We have tried to credit pictures as possible, but if you find something amiss, please write to us!

Enjoyed? You might want to see works of other artists who travelled to India!

The Heritage Lab
The Heritage Lab
The Heritage Lab presents stories and resources from museums with a focus on South Asia - featuring its art, culture, history and heritage.

Click Culture!

Submit a photo of your favourite object from a museum collection to help us improve the coverage of Indian culture, art and heritage related content on the internet beginning with Wikipedia.