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William Hodges RA, The Ghauts at Benares

The Ghauts at Benares, 1787

William Hodges RA (1744 - 1797)

RA Collection: Art

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.

Object details

The Ghauts at Benares
William Hodges RA (1744 - 1797)
Object type
Oil on canvas

915 mm x 1308 mm

Royal Academy of Arts
Object number
Diploma Work given by William Hodges RA accepted 1787

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