Charles D’Oyly’s Calcutta, Early Nineteenth Century

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This catalogue focuses on 30 images of early 19th century Calcutta and its environs painted by Sir Charles D’Oyly, one of the most accomplished artists of 19th century British India. Sir Charles was not a professional artist. He was not trained in London or elsewhere in the U.K. like many of his illustrious predecessors or contemporaries,such as Tilly Kettle, Thomas and William Daniell, Zohann Zoffany, Hodges, Moffat,Samuel Davis, Simpson, James Baille Fraser, William Prinsep or William Wood. Born in 1781 in Murshidabad, (the capital of Bengal Subah till 1757), he accompanied his
family to the U.K. for formal education there and returned to Calcutta in 1808 only to serve the East India Company in various capacities till his retirement in 1833. He served as Senior Member on the Board of Customs, Salt, Opium and the Marine. He always inevitably managed to hold enviable positions, Collector of Dacca (1808-12),Collector of Customs in Calcutta (1813-21), the Opium Agent and the Commercial
Resident of Patna (1821-31).In the course of his long stay in Calcutta, Dacca, Patna and Calcutta, his artistic skill was refined over the years in the company of his mentor George Chinnery as well as
his second wife Elizabeth Jane Ross (herself a painter) and several local artists with whom he worked over these years. The initial amateurish gaucheness disappeared very quickly. His artwork, seen as void of picturesque traits,received both recognition
and audience. He was soon considered to be one of the finest liners of his time.
Images produced in the Antiquities of Dacca (1817), the Bahar Ameteur Lithographic Scrap (1829). Views of Calcutta & its Environs(1848), Sketches of a New Road in a Journey from Calcutta to Gyah (1860) and the burlesque poem “Tom Raw, the Griffin” are illustrative of his artistic skill, his sensibilities and his perceptions of the locality symptomatic of the European gaze.As it emerges out of the views of Calcutta and its environs (27 images) and Bahar Ameteur Lithographic Scrap (3 black & white images), D’Oyly shows far more careful and meticulous depictions representative of the Indian part of the changing city than his predecessors or contemporaries, especially the native Indians and their environs,the streets, the bazaars, huts, the rituals and festivals. Researchers trace a clear line of
demarcation of foreground and back in most of his drawings dedicated to native life.Native bodies are seen in the daily rituals. Animals too share space with humans on the streets and ponds. Temple, mosque and church in the vicinity, the river front, the north and eastern city-scape (Town Hall, Government House, Esplanade and
Chowringhee) as well as Chitpur, Barrackpur, Shibpur and Srirampur are
conspicuously present in his imagination.

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