36 years old Thomas Daniell and his nephew William, a lad of sixteen, sailed out from Gravesend in April 1785, destined for the East where they were to spend the next eight years. Of humble origins, they arrived in Calcutta via China early in seventeen eighty-six, looking for wealthy patrons, and to explore the sublime, the exotic and the picturesque country. Their spirit was symptomatic of the first stirring of the romantic movement of the time.
Some of the earliest glimpses of the city of Calcutta - its many new paladian building, roads and river ghats, temple and churches, and forms of transport old and new- are captured in Thomas Daniell's twelve coloured aquatints, Views of Calcutta. " The Lord be praised at length, I have completed my twelve views. The fatigue I have experienced... has almost worn me out. I am advised to make a trip of up the country...", wrote Thomas in November 1788.
A tour of India was a formidable undertaking in those days, but the two Daniells were undaunted. They covered the length and breadth of India in palanquins and bullock carts, on horseback, on foot and on boat, painting Oriental Scenery wherever they went.
The Daniells' magnificent views of Indian landscapes and antiquities in both oils and aquatint made an immediate impact on the British elite. Stylistically correct and conventional as they were, their magnitude and novelty charmed the romantically inclined for whom the Graeco-Roman culture was effete. Motifs were freely borrowed from Oriental Scenery to decorate wallpapers and ceramics, while the flamboyant domes and minarets of the Royal Pavilion extravaganza at Brighton were directly inspired by the Daniells' accurate depiction of Indian architecture. On the whole, their Oriental Scenery largely contributed to the British image of India as a land of romance and glory. Indeed, the Daniells have continued to feed the Raj nostalgia to this day.
The Victoria Memorial has the largest collection of the works by the two Daniells.
More at the Victoria Memorial site:
Thomas Daniell and his nephew William