William Hodges, R.A. 1744 - 1797
The Ghauts at Benares
Photo: R.A./John Hammond
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The Ghauts at Benares, 1787
Oil on canvas, 915 X 1308 mm
Diploma Work given by William Hodges, R.A., accepted 1787
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William Hodges was the first professional British landscape painter to visit India. He toured the country from 1780-1783 and in 1781 accompanied Governor General Warren Hastings to the ancient city of Benares, now known as Varanasi.

Hodges delighted in the culture and customs of Benares. He recorded in his Travels in India (1793) that there he could 'contemplate the pure Hindoo manners, arts, buildings, and customs… [since] the same manners and customs prevail amongst these people at this day, as the remotest period that can be traced in history.'

Hodges's Diploma work depicts the broad flights of steps known as ghauts or ghats, lining the Western bank of the Ganges at Benares, which enable ceremonial bathing. Although he worked from sketches made in India, Hodges painted this picture in London. In his studio he applied European Neoclassical painting conventions to the compositional arrangement and finish. The result is a polished picturesque scene rather than a strictly topographical one.

This work is currently on display in the Council Room at the Royal Academy of Arts and can be viewed by attending one of the free tours of the John Madejski Fine Rooms. Click here for further information about the tours

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