With the ride of the East India Company in India, an important school of painting rose– it was christened the Company School.
The Late 18th century and early 19th century saw the British enamoured of Indian life because of the prevailing romanticism. They found Indian plants and animals, crafts, occupations, modes of transport and costumes, sublime landscapes and buildings, colourful rituals and ceremonies fascinating. However, they found a lack of naturalism and perspective in traditional Indian art, which to them was unacceptable.
The interaction of the British with Indian artists resulted in an original and engaging style, in which stylization was naturalism, and two dimensional flatness and perspective were blended to striking effect. Company School artists introduced new subjects and new conventions.
Company paintings have been categorized as natural history paintings, paintings of processions, rituals and ceremonies; portraits; paintings of occupations, costumes, transport, and historic buildings and paintings of British homes and domestic scenes. These paintings were a visual record of the texture of Indian life at a time when the camera was not developed enough to capture it faithfully.
One of the most charming portraits belongs to the Punjab School. Although attributed to the Company School due to stylistic reasons, the painting appears to have been executed in the early 20th Century. This portrait of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra could have been commissioned during the Delhi Durbar of 1903, when King Edward was declared Emperor of India. The faces of the king and queen, presumably copied from a photograph, display remarkable likeness. The anonymous Indian artist has even tried to instil a perspective by painting an open window through which a landscape can be seen. His exercise in naturalism ends here: unable to tackle the royal couple seated on a throne, he paints them seated cross legged on the floor.