Painting was a popular means through which India’s architecture could be easily viewed and ‘possessed’ by British travellers. In the latter half of the eighteenth century British travellers like William Hodges travelled to India to experience for themselves the legendary metropolis Shahjahanabad (Delhi) and recorded the glories they saw through illustration and text. Books like Hodge’s Travels in India (1793) incorporated illustrations and text to advocate for the beauty of Indian architectural styles.
This interest in turn fuelled local artistic production. Travellers commissioned local artists to paint figures and buildings in Delhi and this market increased after the British occupied the city in 1803. By the nineteenth century Indian artists were creating sets of standard views of popular buildings to sell to tourists.
‘Company School’ is the general name given to these view paintings, as many Delhi-based artists produced paintings for patrons who worked for the British East India Company, a major trading company that also ruled the beginning of the British Empire in India. Company School paintings combine the meticulous attention to detail, jewel-like colours and rich patterning typical of the Mughal style, together with a British, Romanticised approach focussed on creating an evocative atmosphere through perspective and variated light.