Robert Gwelo Goodman : a South African painter’s immersive views of India

Robert Gwelo Goodman (1871-1939) was an English-born South African landscape artist. He traveled to India around 1903-4 visiting popular destinations such as Benaras, Jaipur, Udaipur, Agra and Delhi creating 70 paintings for his upcoming exhibition in London. He returned to India a year later creating 50 more paintings for another exhibition. As evident from his letters to his wife Mabel, Goodman proactively sought commissioned portraits by Indian Maharajas during the course of his travels to sustain himself – though these hardly materialised.

Palace in India

In 1895, encouraged by his art-teacher J.S Morland (first president of the South African Society of Artists), Goodman traveled to study art at Academia Julian (Paris). Here, he was tutored by French Salon masters such as William Bouguereau. By the beginning of the 20th century, Goodman had moved to England to continue his studies; at this time, Impressionist paintings were exhibited often in England, providing him the opportunity to study the style as well. In his paintings of India as well, you’d find the influence of Impressionism (composition and spontaneous brush strokes) combined with warm colours borrowed from the local landscape.

Robert Gwelo Goodman painted the wonder and splendour of India’s colours : from Benares to Darjeeling.

Goodman arrived in Benares the next day after Christmas. Over the course of 9 days that he spent here, he created 11 works.

At Udaipur, Gwelo Goodman had the opportunity to witness a royal wedding.

He witnessed the wedding festivities from the palace yard, fascinated by the exquisite textiles and drapes. He wrote to his wife about the palace: “It is an enormous place, all white and looks like a dream…”. He supposedly even made a painting from the boat.

Udaipur Palace

“Jaipur is splendid, much more interesting than any other place I’ve been so far”

Indian Durbar

As Robert Gwelo Goodman travelled to Burdwan, he also took a trip to the mountains!

From here he wrote to his wife about the beautiful sunrise, and life in the mountains, suggesting they settle here.

View of the Kanchenjunga from Darjeeling

Goodman’s travels in India were filled with adventures (as documented by his biographer). He may have showed up at a party in plain clothes, felt frustrated with tantrums of Indian royalty while painting portraits – but India’s sights and sounds had a deep impression on him.


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Images : Invaluable (auction lot)
Artist Information : 
Newton Thompson, J. (1951). Gwelo Goodman: South African Artist
Hildegard Kirsten Mannering (1995). European Stylistic Influence on early 20th century African Painters 


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