By Dr. Swapna Sathish (Faculty, Department of Fine Arts, Stella Maris College)
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From the 1780s, the allure of India lured travelling landscape and portrait painters from England who came in search of wealth and an exotic Orient. Until then there was practically no visual record of the Indian landscape and its people based on first-hand observation. European artists, mainly British, applied their talents to painting the varied landscape of India, its monuments, portraits of the ruling and local elite and historical events of imperial interest. Artistic patronage shifted and Indian artists in the local courts were pitted against Western competitors and their illusionistic style of art. In catering to the different visual preferences of the colonisers, ‘Company Painting’ was born.
Dr. Swapna Sathish is Assistant Professor of Fine Arts at Stella Maris College, Chennai, teaching art history and design for the past 18 years. A freelance art critic, she has authored catalogues, exhibition reviews and contributed chapters to books. She has also presented papers at international conferences and delivered invited lectures in India and abroad. Subsequent to a postgraduate research degree in Renaissance art history from the United Kingdom, Swapna received her doctorate from the University of Madras for her thesis titled ‘Piety and Popularity: Contemporary Temple Murals of Tamil Nadu.’ Her areas of interest are popular culture and 18th century colonial art. She received a Charles Wallace India Trust research grant to undertake post-doctoral research in the United Kingdom. She has served as Honorary Secretary and Treasurer of the Association of British Scholars, Chennai chapter.