This lecture focuses on the early colonial era of the British Raj and explains how British artists in the 18th and 19th centuries imagined India in ways that were complicit with imperial domination and the creation of Britain’s image of India. After the East India Company’s victory over the Nawab of Bengal in the Battle of Plassey in 1757, British artists eager to “discover” the newly conquered territory in the East had begun arriving in India. Among them were such renowned artists as William Hodges, Thomas and William Daniell, and Johan Zoffany. A host of amateurs, for example Charles D'Oyly and Emily Eden, followed suit. In the tradition of Orientalism, these artists played a collective role in creating a vision of India and of the Raj that, according to many art historians and critics, not only created a market for the “picturesque” art in Europe, but also buttressed the ideological foundation of colonialism’s “civilizing mission.” Yet, questions remain as to how to negotiate colonial complicity and artistic freedom.
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