Art & Nature: Celebrating wildlife in its beautiful forms

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September 12, 2021 12:30 AM

Nature’s bounty has been a major source of inspiration for artists turning simple visual pleasures into artistic pieces. It’s time to celebrate wildlife in its beautiful forms

Parrots Scarlet Macaw on the treeThe auction features many works from the most renowned series of Company School paintings. (Getty Images)

Last year, we heard about several incidents of animals in captivity. Penguins roamed the exhibits at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago and wild boars were spotted in the centre of Barcelona in Spain. Nature reclaimed its lost space amid the lockdown and flourished in the absence of human interference, traffic and noise pollution. While the pandemic made us value and understand nature in all forms, it has been as diverse as the rest of the world.

This year, it’s time to celebrate wildlife in its beautiful forms. Nature’s bounty has been a major source of inspiration for artists turning simple visual pleasures into artistic pieces. At the Koala Conservation Reserve, Phillip Island in Australia, nature finds place in a new mural artwork created by renowned contemporary artist Jimmy Dvate. The park offers boardwalk trails that allow views of koalas up close in their natural habitat.

Earlier this year, Indian artist Chameli Ramachandran showcased an immersive and entrancing relationship with nature in her solo exhibition of watercolours titled ‘Flowers Bloom, Flowers Wither Away, Flowers Bloom Again’ at the Vadehra Art Gallery in Delhi. The series of flower studies concluded in February but it expands the artist’s symbolic vocabulary of the flower and its parts by viewing them as metaphors for life and death. She has noted their sudden budding as a celebratory arrival of beauty, grace and fragrance, only to wilt shortly thereafter.

A vivid fusion of science and art from vibrant zoological portraits to complex architectural panoramas will be showcased in October titled, ‘In An Indian Garden’, where Sotheby’s will hold the first auction dedicated solely to ‘Company School Paintings’, the work of Indian master artists who were commissioned by East India Company officials in the 18th and 19th centuries. Ranging in their subject matter from individual animal and human studies to complex architectural panoramas, the paintings encapsulate on paper the rich fauna, flora and
architecture of the subcontinent.

The works in the auction are being offered by American collector and esteemed art dealer Carlton C Rochell, Jr. But before the auction in London on October 27, highlights of the show will go on view in Sotheby’s galleries in New York (September 17-20), Hong Kong (October 7-11) and London (October 22-26).

Carlton C Rochell, Jr began to collect the lesser-known masterpieces over two decades ago. The works were the principal way in which India could be revealed to Great Britain, who otherwise could only hear stories about this sumptuous land. “The meticulous ‘miniature’ style was scaled up to depict birds, animals and botanical studies with remarkable lifelike detail, with the results rivalling any Western artists who recorded natural history and travel. Many years on, as they are beginning to take their rightful place in world art, these pieces can now inspire a new generation of collectors who I hope will cherish them as I have,” quotes Rochell.

The auction features many works from the most renowned series of Company School paintings, including albums commissioned by Sir Elijah and Lady Impey, the Fraser brothers, Viscount Valentia and Major General Claude Martin. The most famous is that of the Impey family, who created an enchanting menagerie of animals in their gardens in Calcutta and hired local artists to paint the surroundings, with more than half of their over 300-strong collection depicting birds.

Another show dedicated to Indian birds combines the delicacy and details of Mughal atelier-trained artists with the refinement and rationalisation of European art. At the Delhi’s DAG (Delhi Art Gallery), ‘Birds of India: Company Paintings c.1800 to 1835’ features 125 paintings from the albums of Cunninghame Graham (1800-1804)—the most extraordinary feat of 99 paintings in this exhibition.

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