India has had a particular fascination for travelers from far off lands through the ages. They have been incongrous mixture of pilgrims, and missionaries, merchants and envoys, soldiers of fortune and adverterer of all types. Starting with Megasthenes who arrived here about 322 B.C., many of them have left highly informative and vivid accounts of their travels. They have given us delightful descriptions of different facets of Indian life -- social customs and institutions, religious practices and beliefs, trade and commerce, government and administration.
Surprisingly, there is no evidence of any picture of India until almost the end of 18th century. While detailed and graphic descriptions of the wonderful Hindu and Muslim monuments all over the country, eg., the Taj Mahal at Agra and the Qutb Minar in Delhi have survived the ravages of time, it was not known what they looked like except to those who lived in the area or were fortunate enough to see them personally. This was because, indigenous Indian art, while rich in portraits of kings and emperors, and in paintings of court life, flora and fauna and religious and mythological themes, was lacking in the genre of landscape painting.
This changed suddenly when the British landscape artists started coming to India towards the end of 18th century with the gradual emergence of the British as the dominant power in India. For almost half a century after the arrival in India in 1780 of the first professional British landscape artist William Hodges, a host of British artists made sketches of pictures Indian scenes. Their sketches gave outside world - in fact even the Indians themselves - the first visual pictures of the wonderful monuments in different parts of the country.
Here, for the first time have been assembled in full color reproductions of some of the finest aquatints, engravings and lithographs by the best known European artists who made sketches of the Indian scenes in the late 18th and 19th centuries. While all these artists are British, some of the Indian musical instruments by the well known Belgian artist Fancois Balthazar Solvyns are also included.
The visual record of India which the landscape artists began to bring together epitomized their own enchantment of India. This record also vivified the image of India built up by European travelers during the last two centuries. They brought about indeed a discovery of India.
Source: Bharat, Travel Companion, Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism, Government of India, 1989. Color prints from the collection of G.C. Jain and K.L. Kamat.
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