Venue: Darbar Hall. Opened on : 21st January 2001

It was inaugurated on Saturday, 20th January 2001
by the British High Commissioner, Sir Rob Young in the presence of
His Excellency Sri V. J. Shah, the then Governor of West Bengal.
 

 'In this visible world the being of the painter as the unique spectator was discovered:
This pure visible world and the joy of revealing it...'

Letter from Rabindranath Tagore to Jamini Roy
 

This exhibition presents more than fifty oil paintings from the collection of the Victoria Memorial Hall. These have been conserved and restored over the past ten years (before inauguration) through a collaborative project undertaken with the Calcutta Tercentenary Trust, London. In the course of this unique endeavour conservators from museums and institutions in Britain, Europe and the USA came to work on the collection in Calcutta, sharing their knowledge and experience with the Victoria Memorial team of conservators and restorers.

The Victoria Memorial, founded in 1906 and opened in 1921, is renowned as one of India's greatest institutions holding European art. The treasures of the collection are the oil paintings on India painted between the years 1770 and 1835 by some of the mast distinguished European artists. The landscapes and cityscapes, by Thomas and William Daniell, form the most significant group of their work in the world, and those by William Hodges, together with portraits and historical scenes by Tilly Kettle, Johann Zoffany, James Wales and Thamas Hickey are among these artists' finest achievements. The collection of works of art on paper camplements the oil paintings and makes the Victoria Memorial a remarkable centre for the appreciation and study of the visual history of India. The restored paintings will soon be on permanent display in refurbished galleries, and the rest of the collection together with the works of art on paper will be made accessible far study.


The Calcutta Tercentenary Trust was founded in 1989 to further the conservation and understanding of European heritage in India. The Trust has raised and contributed substantial funds to date to support the restoration and training project in the Victoria Memorial.

 

 Some of the paintings are on online display.
 

 Johann Zoffany
Warren Hastings with his Wife Marian in their Garden at, Alipore

circa 1784-7
Oil on canvas (C1311)

Warren Hastings, Governor General of Bengal 1774-1785, commissioned Zoffany to prepare several portraits. In contrast to the exuberant portrait of Marian Hastings, this intimate conversation piece is tinged with sadness, as Hasting's beloved wife was soon to leave for Europe.

 
   

 Johann Zoffany
Colonel Polier, Claude Martin and John Wombwell with the artist

circa 1786-7
Oil on canvas (R 2066)

Nawab Asaf ud-Daulah employed many Europeans for the rebuilding of Lucknow, including Colonel Antoine Polier, a Swiss engineer and architect to the court. Major-General Claude Martin was a great patron of art and education in Lucknow , and John Wombwell was Assay Master for the East India Company. While the sitters are shown relaxing amidst Polier's collection of paintings,sZoffany placed himself working at his easel in the centre of the painting.

 

William Hodges
View of the Esplanade, Calcutta, from Garden Reach
circa 1785
Oil on canvas (R 2856)

William Hodges toured India extensively between the years 1780 and 1783, having accompanied Captain Cook on his second voyage to the Pacific. Hodges prepared drawings and watercolours for his engravings, including 'Select views of Calcutta'. This painting is the first topographical view of the city, depicting the initial impression travellers would have seen as they sailed up the river Hooghly to approach the `City of Palaces'.

 
 

 

Thomas Daniell
Mountain View in Garhwal
circa 1791
Oil on canvas (C 1000)

Removal of extensive over painting during the restoration work revealed stylistic features characteristic of the artist's work in North India 1790-1, rather than 1797 (back in England) as previously thought. The two figures in camp, on the left side, depict the artist and his nephew, one of whom is using a telescope to examine the distant mountain summit.