Photos & Text: Roli Books
In March 1995, the British Library in London acquired, generously assisted by the National Art Collections Fund, the hitherto unknown collection of albums formed by the marquees and marchioness of Hastings in India between 1813-1823. The albums contain Lord Hastings’s journal of his travel from Calcutta to the Punjab in 1814-1815, accompanied by watercolour illustrations by Sita Ram, recording the events and views of this journey in more than 200 large paintings, a selection of which is featured here.
Though Sita Ram’s picturesque paintings were a sharp departure from the accurate “Company-approved” representations of Indian monuments, they nonetheless remain a testimony to the artist’s fine eye for architectural detail and his deep understanding of how and where to use colour. Besides their artistic value, these illustrations are of immense use as historical documents, giving us a window into a distant past.
The exhibition of Sita Ram’s illustrations opens at Art Gallery, Bikaner House, Pandara Road, New Delhi on 7 December and continues till the end of the month. A book of Sita Ram’s illustrations, entitled Picturesque Views of India, is published by Roli Books.