The British Library holds thousands of drawings and paintings made for East India Company officials, chiefly by Indian artists, from the late 18th century onwards. Their style and subject matter reflect British techniques and interests.
About the collectionThe collection includes examples from all the main centres where Company drawings were produced: in South India at Tanjore, Madras, Trichinopoly, Madurai and Malabar; and in the North at Murshidabad, Calcutta, Patna, Benares, Lucknow and Delhi. Also included are examples from Coorg, Cuttack, Chapra, Arrah, Western India, the Punjab and Kashmir. Some 500 by Chinese artists at Canton also reflect western influence and patronage. The drawings reflect the interests of the British in Indian life and culture, especially castes, occupations, methods of transport, religious festivals and gods.
What is available online?
Prints, drawings and paintings can be found using keywords, subjects, individuals and building names in the Library's Explore Archives and Manuscripts catalogue.
A selection of prints, drawings and paintings have been digitised and can be viewed on the Library's Online Gallery.
What is available in our Reading Rooms?Prints, drawings and paintings from the India Office collections can be viewed in the Print Room, located in the Asian and African Studies Reading Room. Viewing is by appointment only, Monday-Friday. For appointment details, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
An extensive collection of reference works about these collections is available on open access in the Asian & African Studies Reading Room. Key publications include:
Company drawings in the India Office Library, by Mildred Archer (London, 1972)
Indian miniatures in the India Office Library, by Toby Falk and Mildred Archer (London, 1981)
Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire, by J.P. Losty and M. Roy (London, 2012)
Sita Ram: Picturesque Views of India, Lord Hasting's Journey from Calcutta to the Punjab, 1814-15, by J.P. Losty (Delhi, 2015)