Thomas Daniell was born in 1749 in Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey. His father was the landlord of the Swan Inn at Chertsey, later to be succeeded by Thomas' elder brother William and his wife Sarah. Thomas began his career apprenticed to an heraldic painter and worked as a coach painter before attending the Royal Academy Schools. Although he exhibited thirty works of various subjects at the Royal Academy from 1772 to 1784 (mainly landscapes and floral pieces), Daniell found it difficult to establish himself as a landscape painter in Britain. Like many other Europeans he was drawn to India by stories of the wealth and fame that awaited travellers to the newly accessible East. In 1784, Daniell gained permission from the East India Company to travel to Calcutta as an engraver, accompanied by his nephew, William Daniell, as his assistant.
In July 1786, Daniell announced, in an advertisement in the Calcutta Chronicle, his intention to publish a set of views of the city. Executed in etching and acquatint and hand-coloured by local painters, the twelve plates were completed in late 1788. In November of that year Daniell wrote to Ozias Humphrey "I was obliged to stand Painter Engraver Copper-smith Printer and Printers Devil myself. It was a devilish undertaking but I was determined to see it through at all events."
On 3 September 1788, the Daniells set out on a tour of north-east India leaving Calcutta by boat along the River Ganges, travelling as far as Srinagar (in the District of Garwhal, Uttar Pradesh), where they arrived in May 1789. They made many stops on their return journey, not arriving back in Calcutta until February 1792.
On March 10, 1792 the Daniells left Calcutta once more, this time for Madras (now Chennai), reaching it on the 29th of the same month. They left Madras after only 11 days, having hired the services of a considerable retinue, including two palanquins and their bearers, taking a route which more or less followed that of the British army which had defeated Tipu Sultan the previous year. They were back in Madras in January 1793. A briefer third tour took them through western India. They left Madras in the middle of February 1793 and reached Bombay the following month. In May 1793 the Daniells left India and returned to England, reaching home in September 1794.
Return to England
On his return to England, Daniell set about publishing an extensive illustrated work under the general heading title of "Oriental Scenery". Six volumes, published between 1795 and 1808, were based on drawings made in India by the Daniells themselves; another consisted of plates after drawings by James Wales of the caves at Ellora. There were 144 plates in total.
The Daniells also published Views in Egypt (1808–9) and Picturesque Voyage to India, by Way of China (1810). They etched all the plates themselves, and almost all were executed in aquatint. Daniell contributed drawings to Rees's Cyclopaedia, but these have not been identified. From 1795 until 1828, he continued to exhibit Eastern subjects.
He contributed to some landscaping projects, designing an Indian temple for Sir John Osborne at Melchet, and various garden buildings for Sir Charles Cockerell's Sezincote. His paintings of Sezincote are rare exceptions to the Indian subjects which comprise almost his complete output after his return to England He was elected a Royal Academician in 1790, and a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts at around the same time.
- Raj, J. Felix. "Oriental Scenery - Paintings by Daniells". The Goethals Indian Library And Research Society. Retrieved 12 May 2013.
- "Views in Calcutta". The British Museum. Retrieved 19 May 2013.
- The Daniells had met Wales in Ellora in 1793 two years before his death
- Watt, Robert (1824). Bibliotheca Britannica. p. 286.
- Weinhardt, Carl J. "The Indian Taste". Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin.
- "Obituary". The Art Journal 2: 53. 1840.
- Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1911
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press
- D. G. Godse's essay on Daniell's painting of Peshwa court at Pune (circa 1805) is included in his book "Samande Talāśa समंदे तलाश" (Sreevidya Prakashan 1981)
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