By the early 1870s, it was possible to travel from Delhi via Amritsar, Lahore and Multan to Karachi through a combination of passenger trains run by the Delhi Railway, Punjab Railway, and Scinde Railway, and passenger steamships run by the Indus Steam Flotilla. The North-West Frontier Province and Balochistan were considered strategically important regions because of their access to Afghanistan through the Khyber Pass and Bolan Pass, respectively. Accordingly, the Punjab Northern State Railway was created in 1870-71 to construct and operate the railway between Lahore and Peshawar, and the first section of the line was opened in 1876. Efforts to link Quetta in Balochistan by rail began in 1879 and the link was completed in 1887. In all probability, Horsley’s painting depicts soldiers boarding a train to Peshawar, on their way to Afghanistan across the Khyber Pass.


  • Title: Going To The Front
  • Creator: Walter Charles Horsley
  • Date Created: 1878
  • Physical Dimensions: 124.5cm x 185.4cm
  • Type: Painting
  • Contributor: Acquired by Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India (1899-1905) in 1921, and gifted to Victoria Memorial Hall.
  • Medium: Oil on Canvas
  • Artist Biography: Walter Charles Horsley (1855-1934) was born in Kensington, U.K., in 1855, the son of the historical painter John Callcott Horsley. Among seven children, it was only he who inherited his artist father’s power of observation and, aided by his training, got admitted in the prestigious Royal Academy Schools. He made his debut exhibition in the Royal Academy in 1875, shortly after which he was commissioned by a periodical as an illustrator to record the visit to India of Prince Albert Edward, Prince of Wales. This trip was followed by others to India as well as several painting expeditions to Egypt, Morocco and Turkey. Horsley is widely regarded as among the great late nineteenth and early twentieth century British painters.

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