India Office: Company paintings

Ghazi al-Din Haidar entertaining Lord and Lady Moira
Ghazi al-Din Haidar (Nawab and, after 1819, King of Oudh, 1814-27) entertaining Lord and Lady Moira to a banquet in his palace. Lucknow (India), c. 1819. British Library

The British Library holds collections of drawings made for East India Company officials, chiefly by Indian artists, from the late 18th century onwards. Their style and subject matter reflect British techniques and interests.

About the collection

The collection includes examples from all the main centres where Company drawings were produced: in South India at Tanjore, Madras, Trichinopoly, Madurai and Malabar; and in the North at Murshidabad, Calcutta, Patna, Benares, Lucknow and Delhi. Also included are examples from Coorg, Cuttack, Chapra, Arrah, Western India, the Punjab and Kashmir. Some 500 by Chinese artists at Canton also reflect western influence and patronage. The drawings reflect the interests of the British in Indian life and culture, especially castes, occupations, methods of transport, religious festivals and gods.

What is available online?

Prints, drawings and paintings can be found on the India Office Select Materials catalogue. Please note that this catalogue will be decommissioned by winter 2015 and integrated with the Archives and Manuscripts catalogue.

What is available in our Reading Rooms?

Prints, drawings and paintings from the India Office collections can be viewed in the Print Room, located in the Asian and African Studies Reading Room. Viewing is by appointment only, Monday-Friday. For appointment details, please email apac-prints@bl.uk

Further information

An extensive collection of reference works about these collections is available on open access in the Asian & African Studies Reading Rooms. Key publications include:

Company drawings in the India Office Library, by Mildred Archer (London, 1972)

Indian miniatures in the India Office Library, by Toby Falk and Mildred Archer (London, 1981)

Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire, by J.P. Losty and M. Roy (London, 2012)

How to guides

Get a Reader Pass

A guide to how to obtain a British Library Reader Pass to use our reading rooms