Of the great European artists working in India in the 18th and 19th Centuries it was undoubtedly the Daniells, Thomas (1749-1840) and his nephew William (1769-1837) who played a pre-eminent role in recording and documenting the country for European eyes. The aquatints of India by the Daniells have been continuously popular ever since their publication between 1795 and 1810. The British serving in India purchased them for their libraries or framed them for their houses, offices and clubs. In the early 19th century collectors eagerly acquired them as a celebration of the ‘sublime’, the‘picturesque’ and the exotic as well as to record some of the recently documented antiquities of India.
Other artists, notably William Hodges (1744-1797), who made a tour of the Ganges in 1780-83, provided inspiration for the Daniells and in 1786 they set off from England to make their fortune in India. In the six years they spent in India they ventured further than any previous European artists, completing three tours around India: along the Ganges from Calcutta to Srinagar, 1788-91, a tour to Mysore from Madras, 1792-93, and finally on their return to England in 1793 a tour of the temple sites in and around Bombay. The following sketches and watercolours depict views from the Ganges and Southern Indian tours.
Following the completion of the Views of Calcutta published between 1786 and 1788 the Daniells started to prepare for their first trip up country. They planned to travel for a year up the Ganges to Srinagar sketching all the most interesting sites on route and took advice from friends and acquaintances that
included William Hunter, Major William Palmer and Colonel Claude Martin. They left Calcutta on the 3rd September 1788 and reached Srinagar on 27 April 1789, finally returning three years later to Calcutta in November 1791. William Daniell recorded their entire India trip in seven volumes of handwritten journals.