HODGES, William (1744-1797)
A View of Shekoabad
London: J. Grives, 17 March 1788. Aquatint, printed in two or more colours, coloured by hand to resemble watercolour, by Hodges. Sheet size: 16 1/2 x 22 1/4 inches. Plate mark: 12 3/4 x 18 1/2 inches.
A fine print from the very rare hand-coloured issue of Hodges' "Select Views in India", the pioneering work on the architectural and picturesque wonders of India.
This fine image resulted from Hodges' six year stay in India under the patronage of Warren Hastings and was published in three separate forms: uncoloured, uncoloured proof or hand-coloured to resemble the original drawing, as here. The image was were printed lightly in a single operation using two (sepia and blue) or more colours applied to a single plate, these prints were then coloured by hand (probably by Hodges himself) with great freedom but with careful attention being paid to achieving a depth of colour and shading only possible through the repeated over-painting of contrasting pigments. The print therefore retains much of the idiosyncratic vibrancy of the original watercolour.
Born in London the son of a smith, William Hodges was employed as an errand-boy in Shipley's drawing school, where in his spare time he managed to learn drawing. The landscape painter Richard Wilson (1714-1782) noticed him and took him on as his assistant and pupil, and by 1766 Hodges was exhibiting in his own right. In 1772, through the interest of Lord Palmerston (1739-1802) a member of the board of Admiralty, he was appointed as draughtsman to Captain James Cook's second expedition to the South Seas. He returned in 1775 and was employed by the Admiralty in working up his drawings of the expedition and in supervising the engraving of the plates for Cook's published account of the expedition. He exhibited a number of pictures inspired by the voyage at the Royal Academy in London in 1776 and 1777. Life in London must have seemed quite restrained after his South Sea Island experiences, and in 1778 he left for India, where he worked under the patronage of the Governor-General Warren Hastings (1732-1818) and remained in India for about six years, experiencing at first hand one of the most important periods in the establishment of British supremacy in India.
On his return to England in 1784 he set about the publication of 'Select Views in India.' Its appearance would have caused a sensation , as nothing of the scenery of India on this scale had been seen before (Humboldt cited the Hodges views as one of the inducements which led him to travel). Hodges thereafter continued to paint and to exhibit at the Royal Academy, but did not manage to achieve the heights that he reached with his Indian views.
Cf. Abbey Travel II, 416; cf. Brunet III, 242; cf. Lowndes II, p.1079; cf. Tooley 264.