Paintings by the colonial era Company artist: SitaRam

During the late 18th century as the East India Company expanded its control over Bengal

A portrait of Sitaram, 1820. It was painted by some unknown Calcutta artist.

and parts of  northern India, Indian painting technique and style underwent revolutionary changes. The Mughal style of painting using natural pigments and minerals were abandoned for the newly learned watercolour technique, and old painting themes that were based on historical epics (Ragmala series) and portraits, gave way to ones that were more European in their compositions. The new painting style that was more suitable to the British sensibilities, started in Murshidabad and was known as the Company style. The Company art focused on depicting wide landscapes, people celebrating festivals, historical monuments, and botanical and zoological specimens. SitaRam belonged to this Company school of art, and his works depict different historical monuments and landscapes, often using the picturesque technique that show distinct influence of George Chinnery. Some of Sitaram’s best paintings came from the albums he had made while accompanying Lord Hastings on his journey from Bengal to Punjab, as they sailed upstream on the river Ganga in 1814-1815. Sitaram’s paintings give us a rare glimpse into the mid nineteenth India, and we can see places and monuments as they were back then. 

Sitaram’s brush with scientific drawings of botanical specimens. While the botanical paintings are not truly scientific in  nature with their light and shadow effects, they nevertheless impress with viewer with their accurate depictions. 
A Gangetic gharial; study of  a zoological specimen
A temple in Varanasi, built by Rani Ahilya Bai, with the naubhatkhana at the back holding two drums at top
Details of a gavaksha in a Shiva temple in Varanasi
A dharamasala built by Rani Ahilya Bai, near the Dasasvamedha Ghat in Varanasi
Raja Chait Singh’s temple and the temple kund, Ramnagar
The Chunar fort
The western gate of the Allahabad fort
The gate at Akbar’s tomb, Sikandra
The Panch mahal at Fatehpur Sikri
The single pillar supporting the upper level galleries, inside the Diwan e khas at Fatehpur Sikri
Dargah of Sheikh Salim Chisti
The Taj Mahal
The famous temple of Govind Deo at Vrindavan which was built by Raja Man Singh of Amber
A Persian wheel for lifting water from a well in Saharanpur
The Panch Mahal or Macchi bhawan building; behind it are the minarets of Asif ud daulah’s Imambara, Lucknow
The Imambara, Lucknow
The Rumi Darwaza, Lucknow
The banquet hall of the Residency, Lucknow

Temples by the river Bhagirathi in Shantipur (West Bengal)
Old European cemetery at Patna
Patna city
Silkworm cultivation in Murshidabad
The riverbank at Najafgarh showing many houses and temples
Encampment of Lord Hasting’s travel entourage at Kanpur
Kanpur city
Allahabad fort, Ganga on the right and Yamuna on the left
Adi Keshava and Sangameswara temples at Rajghat
Ruins of a temple at Patharghat
Feroz Shah minar at Gaur, West Bengal

Sitaram’s paintings shown here are from the book by J.P Losty on “Sitaram”. The book has almost the entire collection of paintings by Sitaram that are known to exist, which the writer has painstakingly gathered from different private collections. However, some may still remain unknown (in some private collections) as the author states. Here I have given few of Sitaram’s paintings as seen in the book, to showcase the brilliant works by a relatively unknown 19th century Company artist from Bengal. 

(all photographs shown here are strictly for representative purposes only). 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s