George Chinnery

Colonel Woodburn of the Bengal Artillery


Not on display

George Chinnery 1774–1852
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 476 × 375 mm
frame: 662 × 560 × 85 mm
Bequeathed by Alan Evans 1974

Display caption

Britain’s military and administrative presence in India provided a wealthy market for painters prepared to travel there. Chinnery worked in India from 1802 until 1825, and established a distinguished portrait practice.

The Bengal Artillery had been founded in the middle of the eighteenth century, as Britain stepped up its military role on the subcontinent. The vegetation around the Colonel, especially slender palm tree visible on the left, is clearly non-Western. Nevertheless this portrait is basically a conventional image of a military officer, posed informally.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry


Inscribed ‘Colonel David Woodburn/Bengal Artillery/ Painted by Chinnery’ in ink in a (?) nineteenth-century hand on stretcher
Oil on canvas 18 3/4×14 3/4 (47.7×37.5)
Bequeathed by Alan Evans to the National Gallery and transferred to the Tate Gallery 1974

Chinnery arrived in India in December 1802 and stayed there until sailing for China in 1825. From 1808 onwards, he was in Bengal, working for the greater part of this time in a studio in Calcutta, where he had a very prolific practice in portrait painting.

Woodburn became a Firemaker in the Bengal Artillery in 1771 and stayed with this regiment for the whole of his career, serving in the 2nd and 3rd Mysore Wars. He was made a Lieutenant Colonel in 1796 and Colonel in 1801, and died while on leave at a house in Charles Street, Berkeley Square, London, on 25 July 1804. The painting must therefore date from sometime between Chinnery's arrival in India and Colonel Woodburn's departure for England, presumably in late 1803 or early 1804.

(The details of the sitter's career have been kindly supplied by Mr Nigel Arch of the National Army Museum).

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1974-6: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1978

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