The Lucknow School, Yellow-Footed Green Pigeon
The Lucknow School
Yellow-Footed Green Pigeon
Inscribed in Urdu: ‘Purple shouldered Pigeon. lat. sup. Scip. Nobe. B.C. male’ lower left,
further inscribed in Urdu
Paper size: 18 1/2 x 11 1/4 in.
Pen and Ink with watercolor, gum arabic
Provenance: Claude Martin (1735-1800), Lucknow
Lucknow, India circa 1775-1785
The Lucknow school emerged at the Mughal Empire’s twilight era in the vibrant, multi-ethnic city of Lucknow. This school of natural history painting evolved out of several artistic traditions, but most importantly, it is seen as an offshoot of Mughal miniature painting. Miniaturists in North India had been depicting birds as the main subject of paintings for centuries. With the advent of large scale colonization, local artists began to apply their skills to commission from Western patrons. Typically, this involved adapting their styles to fit a new set of demands: they started increasing the format, realism, and quantity of their works.
The elegance and sophistication of the Lucknow School showcased in the present portrait of a Yellow-Footed Green Pigeon. With its lush and exquisitely rendered textures and delicate, jewel-like colors, this work offers a rich fusion of the West’s artistic realism and the lyricism and expressivity of Indo-Islamic culture.
The Yellow-footed Green Pigeon can be found in the scrublands, forests, and cultivated areas near towns and villages of southern Asia, from Pakistan and India through Indochina. It is the state bird of Maharashtra in the Western region of India. This species forages in flocks and feeds on fruit. They are often seen sunbathing atop high trees at dawn and like to perch in pairs.
The most prominent collector of ornithological paintings in Lucknow was Major General Claude Martin (1735-1800). Martin held many titles in his life; a soldier, an architect and builder, a collector and connoisseur, a businessman, a balloonist, a gunsmith, and an educator. His exploits have been documented in numerous books and biographies. His collection of ornithological paintings far surpasses any of his contemporaries.
By the late 18th-century, many Mughal-trained painters in India looked to the emerging British ruling class for patronage. The products of the Lucknow School, based in Lucknow, India, were often albums of flora, fauna, and other exotic sights of India, made to be taken back to Britain. Of the varied subjects, bird studies were a classic type. Paintings of birds, animals, and flowers had been a dominant genre in Indian art since the time of the Mughal emperor Jahangir (1605–27), and the continuation of such subjects under British patronage was a natural extension of that established tradition. However, the results were often quite different stylistically.
In the second half of the 18th-century, the East India Company's English governing elite started commissioning Indian artists to paint subjects of interest to them. The themes related to India's foreign lavish lifestyle, their houses and possessions, botanical and zoological studies, and Indians in their typical dresses pursuing their crafts and professions. This type of work is called Company art. The British elite in India generally adopted an extravagant lifestyle that could be cultured and indulgent. They spent heavily on houses, horses, books, music, and pictures.
Indian painting and Indian art were patronized, most notably by Warren Hastings, governor, and governor-general of Bengal from 1772. Women also became connoisseurs. Mary Impey, the wife of Elijah Impey, chief justice of Fort William, Bengal, from 1773 to 1783, commissioned beautiful drawings of Indian natural history. Margaret Benn-Walsh moved to India to join her father and brother in 1776, delighted in north Indian songs, setting them in Western musical notation as "Hindostannie airs." Those members of this elite who survived aimed to return to live in England or Scotland (which won a stake in Indian service early in the century), at least in the style of affluent gentry.
or by email at loricohen@aradergalleries.
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