Thomas Daniell became the great painter of Indian landscapes in the late c18th. He was born in 1749 in Kingston-on-Thames, his father being the landlord of the Swan Inn at Chertsey. He was apprenticed to an heraldic painter and worked at Maxwell’s, the coach painter before attending the Royal Academy as a student from March 1773. He exhibited over 30 works of art, mainly landscapes, at the Royal Academy between 1772 and 1784, and being unable to establish himself as a landscape painter in England decided to travel to the Orient that was beginning to beguile those who travelled to India and China. He got permission from the East India Company to travel to Calcutta and set off with his nephew, William, on 7 April 1785. It was in Calcutta that Daniell met Charles Cockerell who ran the post office for the East India Company. The two men discovered a mutual love of all things Indian: architecture, landscape and the people at a time when many of the White Mughals lived with Indian women, converted to Islam and took on Indian customs and clothes. Daniell began by publishing a set of views of the city, hand-coloured by local paintings.
The south view of the Taj Mahal at Agra by Thomas Daniell
Tours of north west and southern India
On 3 September the Daniells set off on a tour of north west India, beginning their journey by boat up the Ganges and reaching Srinigar in May 1879. The two men spent the winter of 1790/91 in the town of Bhagalpur with the artist Samuel Davis. They arrived back in Calcutta in 1792 but only staying a few months before they set out again for Madras where they stayed just 11 days.
They retraced the route of the British army prior to its defeat of Sultan Tipu the year before (1791) and then returned to Madras. A third tour took them to eastern India in 1793 from where they left for England in May 1793 reaching England in September 1794.
Back home Daniell set about publishing much of their work in a six volume work called ‘Oriental Scenery’. In total there were 144 plates depicting views of India. There were further works on ‘Views of Egypt’ and ‘Picturesque Voyage to India by way of China’. The Daniells’ work was exhibited and they themselves did the etching. Thomas Daniell worked on some landscaping projects such as the garden at Sezincote, an oriental building built for Charles Cockerell by his brother Samuel Pepys Cockerell. At a time when oriental design was the height of fashion.
Thomas Daniell never married and lived to 1840 outliving both of his nephews.