Works of art by Flemish painter and printmaker Baltazard Solvyns, who lived in Bengal in the 1790s, are on display at an ongoing DAG exhibition at the Bikaner House here.
Entitled after Solvyns’ original four-volume collection “Les Hindous” (translated as “Les Hindous”), the first and second editions of which were published in Calcutta (1796-99) and Paris (1808-12) respectively, the exhibition features 288 prints by the artist capturing the people and material culture he encountered during the decade he lived in Bengal. The exhibition is part of DAG’s long-term vision to bring to India works by foreign artists who have lived in the country. It was organized by writer Giles Tillotson.
“This exhibition is an outsider’s perspective on India’s past – or at least part of it in the 18th century – a large body of work that focuses on Bengal and neighboring regions, where the artist lived and worked for over a decade starting in 1791, “the gallery said in a statement.
“This exhibition, both intimate and encyclopedic, takes up the challenge of an artist of his temperament and attempts to present the series as an ethnographic exercise as much as a creative exercise,” he added. The show explores a detailed and intimate portrait of the Indian people during Solvyns’ stay in the country. Born and educated in Antwerp, Solvyns came to India hoping to make his fortune. Living in Calcutta without permission from the board of directors of the East India Company, he remained on the fringes of European society and became more involved in all aspects of Indian life that swarmed around him.
While other European Indian artists of his time sought to make their fortunes by painting portraits of wealthy “nawabs” or powerful East India Company officials, Solvyns wandered the alleys of Calcutta and explored the outskirts of the city to meet people of all kinds and all classes. , indicates the press release of the DAG.
His engravings feature people of all professions and all levels of Indian society, as well as depictions of festivals and sacred rites, complemented by images of animals, birds and insects, trees and of cultures. In addition, they also record various types of boats, cars and musical instruments that were in common use at the time. “In the 18th century, when Solvyns lived in Calcutta, India’s relations with Europe were not on an equal footing, but 200 years later we can return his gaze with serenity and ease, to explore not only what his depiction of India tells us about him, but whether we can learn something about ourselves from it.
“Solvyns may not always be looking to please, but his inquisitive gaze will certainly intrigue us and perhaps make us revisit things we thought we knew all too well,” said Ashish Anand, CEO and Managing Director of DAG.
The exhibition, which will continue until August 20, is accompanied by a book that presents, illustrates and contextualizes this work.
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