A slice of Madras history has been captured in engravings and lithographs.

The Etchings, Engravings and Aquatints Exhibition presents a slice of Madras history redolent with charm, colour, nostalgia and even humour. Before modern printing was born, the artists and engravers had evolved a technique whereby an artist's work was etched on copper plates by engravers, aquatinted, then prints were made and the entire process was done manually.

Much of the visual imaging of the British Raj in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries is frozen in the artist-engraver synergy. The evocative frames combined European detailing and realism with the charm of miniature art and spoke of Indian landscapes and wars fought by the British, of “natives” and “Sahibs”, of great buildings and humblerural dwellings… This exhibition is about Madras and about its people.

The delicate touch and colour define mist in the frames on view that even the ramparts of Fort St. George seemto breathe romance. An engraving of the fort by artist Francis Ward and engraver H. Merke is delightful, reflecting the charm of Georgian buildings and the “busyness” of St. Thomas Street. A view of (what one knew as) Rajaji Hall is another magnificent engraving done by John Golding and aquatinted on the copper plate engraving.

Detailed to dazzle

Many of the etchings are about sepoys and officers with wonderfully detailed and dazzling uniforms.

A peep into the lifestyle of the British Raj has a lithograph titled, ‘A Lady in Toilette.' The lady is being attended to by numerous ayahs fixing her dress and her coiffeur.

‘The Young Civilian's Toilette' has a languid British sahib reclining in an ‘easy chair' while a host of natives attending to him. ‘Madras Disembarkation' is delicate in execution and has a swarm of Indian coolies unloading travelling cases.

The exhibition is on view at Vennirul Art Gallery, CP Arts Centre, 1 Eldams Road, Alwarpet, till August 28.

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