William Hodges

Tomb and Distant View of Rajmahal Hills


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Not on display

William Hodges 1744–1797
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 622 × 724 mm
frame: 838 × 965 × 82 mm
Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1964

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The alien landscapes and ancient buildings of India were made more familiar to Western eyes by drawing analogies with ancient Greece and Rome. In its form and style, Hodges’ picture is very like a conventional view of an Italian landscape with its antique ruins.

Such scenes were the speciality of the painter Richard Wilson, who had been Hodges’ teacher. Like a number of painters facing an ever more competitive art market at home, Hodges looked further afield for work. He travelled to India in the early 1780s.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry

William Hodges 1744–1797

T00690 Tomb and Distant View of Rajmahal Hills 1782

Not inscribed.
Canvas, 24½ x 28½ (62 x 72.5).
Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1964.
Coll: Probably painted for Augustus Cleveland; sold in Calcutta; purchased as a Richard Wilson from a picture restorer by Dudley Wallis c. 1925–30; identified as Hodges by Colonel Grant; sold by Dudley Wallis at Christie’s, 24 July 1959 (45), bt. by Matthiesen; sold Sotheby’s, 20 November 1963 (129), bt. by Maas as ‘Extensive River Landscape in India’; purchased by the Friends of the Tate Gallery from the Maas Gallery for presentation.
Lit: W. Foster, ‘William Hodges, R.A. in India’ in Bengal Past and Present, XXX, 1925, pp.1–8; ibid, ‘British Artists in India’, in Walpole Society, LIX, 1930–31, pp. 40-41.
Repr: The Times, 30 September 1964.

Mrs. Archer of the India Office Library suggested that the scene might be a view of the hills of Rajmahal and river Ganges in Bihar. A picture entitled ‘Tomb and distant view of Rajmahal Hills’ was among the twenty-one works by Hodges which were sold in Calcutta in 1794 with the effects of Augustus Cleveland after his premature death in 1784. Hodges accompanied Warren Hastings on his journey to Benares in 1781 and on the way back stopped in January 1782 at Bhagalpur and stayed about four months with the collector and magistrate Augustus Cleveland, who patronised him as lavishly as Hastings had done. In his Travels in India, 1793, ch. V, pp.86–9, Hodges describes the journeys he undertook with Cleveland in the Rajmahal district and the various monuments they visited. Many of these figure among the titles of the pictures by Hodges in the Cleveland Collection listed by W. Foster, 1925, from the Calcutta Gazette, 9 January 1794. Mrs. Archer, who knows the district well, thinks that the title suggested above is the only one which seems to fit the picture. The scene cannot be connected with any of the other exhibited or known works by Hodges, but it has not been possible to discover how and when T00690 came from India to London.

Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1964–1965, London 1966.

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