Major General Frederick Stafford Hewett (British, 1826-1880) Views in Bombay, Colaba and Madras between 1869-1870
Lot 69
Major General Frederick Stafford Hewett (British, 1826-1880) A group of seven views of Bombay, Colaba and Madras between 1869-1870
£2,000 - 3,000
US$ 3,400 - 5,000
Lot Details
Major General Frederick Stafford Hewett (British, 1826-1880)
A group of seven views of Bombay, Colaba and Madras between 1869-1870
each inscribed and most dated, some double sided with drawings of figures, animals and/or caricatures
pen and ink, some with watercolour
each 12 x 39.5cm (4 3/4 x 15 1/2in).
Together with a view of an Egyptian pigeon town by the same hand. (8)

Footnotes

  • A career soldier, Hewett served in the Bombay Presidency between 1868-1872, a period in the region's history defined by its socio-political turbulence. Whilst commanding the 28th regiment of Native Infantry, Hewett produced a private visual diary, delineating a highly personalised engagement with the area spanning Bombay and Hyderabad. Such artistic practices were not unusual amongst officers, since all those serving abroad were given a degree of formal instruction in drawing as a means of facilitating military surveying. Crucially, however, what is unique about the body of Hewett's topographical drawings - notwithstanding his technical accomplishment - is the superlative level of detail and the artist's evident sensitivity to his surroundings.

    In his panoramas of 19th-century India, Hewett captures with unfailing accuracy the beauty of the terrain, its populace and cultural character. A pre-eminent chronicler of local flora and fauna, Hewett's landscapes reveal a particular preoccupation with native trees, which he records in superb detail. In this comprehensive set of 'camera obscura' depictions, 19th-century India comes to life; Bombay is particularly well-served, with Hewett's architectural perspectives capturing the archipelago in its entirety from the railway station at Thanna to the Elphinstone Circle. Formally recognised by the Top Brass, Hewett's execution of the Kolara tombs at Hyderabad received official commendation.

    By contrast, Hewett's whimsical and often satirical magical realist sketches of the same period reveal a stream of unconscious imaginings which ultimately serve as an escapism from military service on the frontier in the aftermath of the Mutiny of 1857. Long before the formal surrealist movement, Hewett's peculiar caricatures - not dissimilar to the illustrations of 'Punch' - provide a window into the internal caprices and not infrequent humour of a member of the Victorian Establishment. The social, political, eccentric and often sexual nature of these works indicate that, unlike Hewett's depictions of the Kolara tombs, they were very much intended as a form of personal amusement.

    As in Hewett's erratic doodlings, the everyday minutiae of military life is pointedly absent from his topographical drawings. Where soldiers have been included, they are almost uniformly burlesqued. Nevertheless, amongst his representations of the fort at Thanna is an isolated reminder of colonial hostilities: a depiction of the Execution Tower. Seemingly, although Hewett's art provided him with a fleeting liberation from life during the formative days of the British Raj, it did not allow him to fully evade it. As such, these dual works are revelatory of an acutely responsive and creative mind, simultaneously trapped and stimulated by its surroundings.
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  1. Shayn Speed
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  2. Rhyanon Demery
    Specialist - Travel and Exploration
    Bonhams
    Work
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    United Kingdom
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    FaxFax: +44 20 7393 3863