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- Artist: HODGES; William (1744 - 1797)
- Production Date: 1783 - 1786
- Production Period:
- Object Name: Oil Painting
- Object Name: Painting
- ObjectNumber: OP613
- Date: 1783 - 1786
- Summary: Oil painting showing the Ganges river, overlooked by a fortress on a hill. There is an elephant on the river bank and small boats on the water.
- Description: The bold colours in this Indian landscape portray the exotic location. Drama is added by the strong central structure rising upwards, which casts a dark and intrusive shadow. The 16th century Chunar Gur Fortress dominates the setting, located on a hilltop overlooking the Ganges River. William Hodges was the only child of a London blacksmith. As a boy he was employed to run errands for Shipley's Drawing School where he managed to acquire some knowledge of drawing. He was taken on as an assistant by the artist Richard Wilson who painted 'Niagra Falls' and made rapid progress. In 1772 he obtained the post of draughtsman on Captain Cook's second expedition to the South Pacific. The landscapes of discovered islands with their virgin nature, and portraits of 'noble savages' were exhibited in the Royal Academy of Arts, and showed the British public a new, unspoiled world. Sir Joshua Reynolds wrote: "Mr Hodges is a very intelligent and ingenious artist, and produced, I think, the best landskips in the last exhibition, which were taken from drawings which he made in the East Indies..." A taste for exotic travels clearly stayed with Hodges, for in 1780 he went to India and spent 4 years travelling, drawing and painting. In spite of the fact that his paintings had some success in Britain, it was not enough to keep his family - a wife and five children. So in1795 he abandoned his profession and opened a bank. This came to grief and soon after its failure Hodges died. The children were helped by the Governor-General of Bengal, Warren Hastings. The 'South-West Face of Chunar Gur Fortress' was finished in England from drawings made earlier on the spot, in 1781. (Compare the initial aquatint and final painting). The fortress is situated on the Ganges. Hodges tried to represent the exotic beauty of both the ancient building and the powerful river. "The rivers I have seen in Europe, even the Rhine, appear as rivulets in comparison with the enormous mass of water."
- Description: William Hodges began his artistic career as an assistant to Richard Wilson and made rapid progress. In 1772-75 he took part in the Captain Cook's second voyage to the South Pacific. The landscapes of discovered islands with their virgin nature, and portraits of "noble savages" were exhibited in the Royal Academy of Arts, and showed the British public a new unspoiled world. In 1780 he became the first British professional painter to visit India. He spent 4 years travelling, drawing and painting. Warren Hastings, Hodges' keenest supporter, commissioned all of the artist's major oils, and also accompanied him on some of the tours into the North Indian interior. Two books - "Select Views in India Drawn on the Spot in the Years 1780, 1781, 1782, and 1783" (London, 1785-8) and "Travels in India" and also many paintings reflect his Indian impressions. "The South-West Face of Chunar Gur Fortress" was finished in England from a drawing made earlier on the spot, in 1781. Chunar Gur Fortess is situated on the Ganges. Hodges tried to represent the exotic beauty of both the ancient building and the powerful river. But this peaceful landscape was pictured in difficult and even bloody circumstances - Hodges had accompanied the Governor Warren Hastings when he went to arrest the ruler of the city of Benares, Raja Chet Singh, for not paying his taxes. Raja's troops rose and began to massacre Hastings' escort. As the fighting developed into an open revolt, Hastings, Hodges and the other survivors fled to Chunar Gur, where the artist made the first sketches for the painting. Hodges paintings of India provided an insight into a different world for the educated English public in the late 18th century. His exotic scenes are in contrast to the commercial penetration and military activity which enabled Britain to secure economic and political influence in the subcontinent.
- Dimensions: 122 x 160.7 cm
- Related People:
- For more information contact: Wolverhampton Arts and Museums Service