Anglo India, at Apparao Galleries, an exhibition of illustrations and prints from the British era captures the spirit of the times

Around the corner from the main gallery, up a small flight of stairs, a quaint old door opens to reveal a space that brims with art. Here, amid sculptures and paintings of different artistes are prints and illustrations from the days of the Raj.

“During the British Rule in India, many artists visited the country either to work or accompany others who worked in India. India was so fascinating that many artists took the arduous journey by sea and spent many years, illustrating, documenting and studying the country and its people. They recorded everything, the landscapes, the architecture, the people, the wildlife, the customs and the topography. Many of these renderings were for books, folios or illustrations,” reads the introduction to the exhibits.

Indeed, the exhibits offer us a chance to look at the way Indians and India were seen by these travellers. The series of prints on display from the Balthazar Solvyns 1812 Edition is an anthropological exploration into the costume and streetscapes of India. An exercise in illustrating what these artists considered ‘exotic’. The exhibits also feature original etchings, engravings, lithographs and aquatints by A. Dalrymple, C. Martin, Thomas and William Daniell.

“What they left behind has been an invaluable record of social history. Printmaking evolved after the first press was invented by William Caxton in the mid 1400s. Until the advent of printing, artists illustrated manuscripts and folios by hand. It was at this time the pinhole camera also came into being. Aquatints, etchings, lithographs and engravings became the rigour of the day. Illustrations had to reach far and wide, numbers became important and thus books came into existence. It is these prints from books and folios that have survived to give us a glimpse of history. Many artists familiarised themselves with the country and today their works are very collectable. Rare as these prints are the records and mentions can be found in several travellers’ accounts and in many documents of history. They are often drawn by one artist and engraved by another and almost always mentioned directly on the print itself,” say the organisers.

Prints and illustrations of birds like the Golden Plover, large temples surrounded by pillars with intricate carvings, landscapes near Gingi and more, all for sale too, are on display till January 23 at Apparao Galleries, No. 7, Wallace Gardens Third Street, Nungambakkam.