Golam Rasool, Peepul Mundee, Agra – The Taj Mahal

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Company School, Agra India (19thc). Pen and ink and watercolour on wove paper, presented in a green coloured mount. This watercolour has been de-acidified and mounted onto 100% cotton rag board.



In the eighteenth and nineteenth century India witnessed a new genre of painting popularly known as ‘Company School’. It was so named because it emerged primarily under the patronage of the British East India Company. The officials of the Company were interested in paintings that could capture the “picturesque” and the “exotic” aspect of the land, besides recording the variety in the Indian way of life which they encountered. Indian artists of that time, with declining traditional patronage, fulfilled the growing demand for paintings of a wide variety including historical monuments such as the Taj Mahal. The artists of this School modified their technique to cater to the British taste for academic realism which required the incorporation of Western academic principles of art such as a close representation of visual reality, perspective, volume and shading. The artists also changed their medium and now began to paint with watercolour (instead of gouache) and also used pencil or sepia wash on European paper.

The Taj Mahal was commissioned by Shah Jahan (r.1628-58), following the death of his wife Arjumand Banu Begam, known by her title Mumtaz Mahal, and was built between 1632-43 . Despite the numerous attacks on North Indian cites of Agra and Delhi in the late 18th century, the Taj Mahal was the only monument to have escaped serious damage. Constructed of India’s finest marble, it took 12 years to build involving 20,000 craftsmen from all over Asia. Its harmonious proportions and the high quality of its craftsmanship have made the Taj Mahal one of the most famous buildings in the world.

Additional information

Taj Mahal

Sheet: 19 1/4 in x 25 1/2 in. (48.8 cm x 64.8 cm.) Mount: 23 1/8 in x 28 3/4 in. (58.5 cm x 73 cm.)


Company School - India

‘Company painting’ is a broad term for a variety of hybrid styles that developed as a result of European (especially British) influence on Indian artists from the early 18th to the 19th centuries. It evolved as a way of providing paintings that would appeal to European patrons who found the purely indigenous styles not to their taste. As many of these patrons worked for the various East India companies, the painting style came to be associated with the name, although it was in fact also used for paintings produced for local rulers and other Indian patrons. The subject matter of company paintings made for western patrons was often documentary rather than imaginative, and as a consequence, the Indian artists were required to adopt a more naturalistic approach to painting than had traditionally been usual. Europeans commissioned sets of images depicting festivals and scenes from Indian life or albums illustrating the various castes and occupations, as well as the architecture, plants and animals of the sub-continent. While most of the works were painted on paper, there was also a fashion for images of Mughal monuments and Mughal rulers and their wives painted on small plaques of ivory. This increased use of western approaches to painting coincided with the later phases of local painting styles, as manifested in centres such as Lucknow, Murshidabad and Delhi in North India and Mysore and Thanjavur in the South. As a result, the line between ‘company’ painting and later provincial work for local patrons is often blurred.