Alum Bay, Isle of Wight - Original early 19th-century watercolour painting

An original early 19th-century watercolour painting, Alum Bay, Isle of Wight.

A very attractive view across Alum Bay, Isle of Wight. Alum Bay is renowned for its multi-coloured sand. Inscribed verso: "Alum Bay, Isle of Wight, the cliff where the coloured sand is found".

There is a hairline tear at the lower left corner, which is partially closed by the backing paper. There is the odd spot of foxing, and a tiny nick in the paper towards the upper edge.
14.1cm x 22.9cm.

This picture is from an intriguing collection of early 19th-century works, many of which are Indian in subject, which were once housed in an album belonging to M.V. Hunter.

The collection comprises fine drawings in ink and graphite, accomplished watercolours and striking etchings, all dating to around 1840. The majority of the works are by A. Hunter, presumably a family member of the owner of the collection. Many of the subjects are Indian, depicting scenes from everyday village life, featuring working villagers, women carrying pots, men on horseback and children. There are a small number of works by other artists, R. Marshall, C.M. Hodgson and C.J.J., featuring more European-looking landscapes, and views such as Greenwich Hospital and Alum Bay, Isle of Wight.

Evidently a skilled artist and accomplished engraver, the identity of A. Hunter is unknown. The unusual Indian subject matter, with attention to detail in character and dress, has the appearance of being documented first-hand, presumably by Hunter living and working in India. The Indian works are dated 1846 and 1847.

Is this Dr Alexander Hunter, a Scottish surgeon and artist who set up India’s first arts institution? Alexander Hunter went to Bengal in 1841 and took on a surgical post at Madras in 1843. He had ambitions of becoming an artist, but was encouraged by his father to pursue surgical training. He attained degrees of the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh, and Doctor of Medicine, whilst also studying the antique and painting in the Trustees Academy at Edinburgh. In 1850 Alexander Hunter set up India’s first arts institution, the Madras School of Industrial Art; he went on to have an instrumental role in arts education in colonial India. It is documented that to help finance the Art School at Madras Hunter sold his own library, etchings, drawings and paintings, to the value of many hundreds of pounds.


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