Not currently on display at the V&A

View of the Kaiser Bagh in Lucknow

Painting
1864 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

William Simpson was born on 28 October 1823 in Glasgow. Following a seven-year apprenticeship with a specialist lithographic firm, he moved to London in February 1851 and found employment with the publishing firm of William Day and Son. In 1859 the firm commissioned Simpson to visit India and make drawings for a book illustrating well-known places associated with the 1857 uprising of the Indian army against their British officers.

Thus began Simpson’s long association with India and the first of four visits over the next 25 years. During these journeys he made numerous rapid pencil drawings in sketchbooks, often heightened with colour washes. Many formed preparatory studies for finished watercolours, most of which he worked up after returning to London. The plan was for Day and Son to select 250 of these finished watercolours to be lithographed as illustrations in the projected volume. While Simpson was away in India, however, Day and Son drifted into debt and in 1867 it went into liquidation. As Simpson expressed it, ‘the great work on India, on which I bestowed so much time and labour, never came into existence’. Two years later, Simpson’s collection of 250 watercolours was sold off as bankrupt stock: ‘This was the big disaster of my life’, he ruefully remarked.

This painting shows soldiers and sailors looting the Kaiser Bagh Palace in Lucknow in northern India during the so-called ‘Indian Mutiny’ of 1857 (known in India as the First War of Indian Independence). The scene is an imaginary one and was painted three years after the events depicted.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Watercolour on paper
Brief Description
Painting by a British artist: William Simpson, Kaiserbagh Palace complex, Lucknow, 1865.
Physical Description
View of the Kaiser Bagh in Lucknow. The Kaiserbagh is a sprawling complex consisting of large, medium and small structures in the form of large rows of living quarters, royal mansions, ladies' quarters (harems), cupolas (small structures built on top of a roof) and in the center stands the Baradari, a picturesque white stone building which was earlier covered with silver. The construction of the Kaiserbagh Palaces was started in 1848 by Nawab Wajid Ali Shah and completed in 1850.
Dimensions
  • Height: 14in
  • Width: 10in
Marks and Inscriptions
signed 'W.Simpson'
Object history
Simpson, William (1823-1899). Painter and lithographer. Simpson was apprenticed to a lithographer in Glasgow and in 1851 came to London where he made views of the Great Exhibition. He became well known for his paintings with commissions by Queen Victoria to paint various important events in her reign. In 1859 the publishers, Day and Son, commissioned him to make drawings of India. On his return he produced "India, ancient and modern" (London, 1867), a series of illustrations of the country and its people. Later in 1876, he accompanied the Prince of Wales to India and published "Shikare and Tomasha, a souvenir of the visit of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales to India (London, 1876).
Production
Lucknow
Place Depicted
Summary
William Simpson was born on 28 October 1823 in Glasgow. Following a seven-year apprenticeship with a specialist lithographic firm, he moved to London in February 1851 and found employment with the publishing firm of William Day and Son. In 1859 the firm commissioned Simpson to visit India and make drawings for a book illustrating well-known places associated with the 1857 uprising of the Indian army against their British officers.



Thus began Simpson’s long association with India and the first of four visits over the next 25 years. During these journeys he made numerous rapid pencil drawings in sketchbooks, often heightened with colour washes. Many formed preparatory studies for finished watercolours, most of which he worked up after returning to London. The plan was for Day and Son to select 250 of these finished watercolours to be lithographed as illustrations in the projected volume. While Simpson was away in India, however, Day and Son drifted into debt and in 1867 it went into liquidation. As Simpson expressed it, ‘the great work on India, on which I bestowed so much time and labour, never came into existence’. Two years later, Simpson’s collection of 250 watercolours was sold off as bankrupt stock: ‘This was the big disaster of my life’, he ruefully remarked.



This painting shows soldiers and sailors looting the Kaiser Bagh Palace in Lucknow in northern India during the so-called ‘Indian Mutiny’ of 1857 (known in India as the First War of Indian Independence). The scene is an imaginary one and was painted three years after the events depicted.
Bibliographic References
  • Rohatgi P. and Parlett G., assisted by Imray S. and Godrej P. Indian Life and Landscape by Western Artists: Paintings and Drawings from the Victoria and Albert Museum, 17th to the early 20th century. Published by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Mumbai, in association with V&A, London, 2008. ISBN 81-901020-9-5.p. 285, pl. 41
  • India's fabled city : the art of courtly Lucknow / Stephen Markel with Tushara Bindu Gude ; and contributions by Muzaffar Alam ... [et al.]. Munich ;London: Prestel, Johann Gottlieb, c2010 Number: 9783791350752 (hbk.), 3791350757 (hbk.)cat. no. 175, p. 41.
Collection
Accession Number
1156-1869

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record createdJanuary 22, 2003
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