Discuss the circumstances in which Company School of Paintings developed in India. Enumerate its salient features and subjects.

Published: May 1, 2016

During the later part of the 18th century, the British East India Company had firmly established its political dominion in India. A large number of employees of the East India Company arrived in India and as they accommodated themselves here, they came across the vivid indigenous culture and life.
They wanted to capture the images to send or take back home and thus they gradually became the new patrons of the Indian art.
These new patrons wanted that the artists depict Indian life and scenes but in a medium of their own liking. Thus, a synthetic style was born in which the Indian artists imitated the English style of paintings. The first region in India to saw the emergence of such style was the Madras Presidency.
The work accomplished by the Indian artists was in a European style and palette, and this new Indo-European genre of painting known as the Company Style. In Hindi, it is called Kampani Kalam.
Its features include:

  • Company style is a hybrid Indo-European style of paintings.
  • Combination of traditional elements from Rajput and Mughal painting blended with Western treatment.
  • Paintings reflecting the Indian miniature tradition were usually small while those portraying the natural history paintings of plants and birds were significantly large.

The subjects included:

  • Landscapes and views of nature
  • Monuments
  • Indian People, dancers, fairs and festivals and costumes
  • Figures of different castes and trades
  • Architectural subjects: Usually done in a detailed and frontal style more like that of an architectural draftsman than the Romanticised style used by most European painters visiting India
  • Some animal or plant subjects
  • Some erotic subjects

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