Cajoling With Colonial Culture
by Angshuman Paul
Often resorting to art objects helps to create a separate theme and such theme based lounge can cajole business travellers as they prefer to organize business meetings in such theme based lounge. So it's not surprising, that the centre of the Imperial has a 'Model of Universe' made in 9000 pieces by the then French architect Lutyens and the entire hotel rotates around the theme of pre-independence India.
The Imperial has carefully preserved its collection of original engravings and lithographs. Each floor in the Hotel is dedicated to an artist whose original works beautifully adorns the walls of the rooms and the corridors. There are suites christened as Lutyens and meticulous care has been taken to recreate the suites décor ambience of the Period of Raj. Each room also has unique antique pieces of furniture and paintings from the art collection of the Hotel. This lounge displays a priceless art collection of the 'British Art on Sikh.' The collections over here includes the works of great artists who worked in India in the late 17th and early 18th century and produced etchings, wood engravings, lithographs, and aquatints based on sketches of landscapes, architecture, battle and life of the Sikh community.
Elsewhere we find paintings which convey the making of Delhi as a capital. Some of the prominent artists whose paintings are framed in are Thomas and William Daniells, William Simpson. The enormous art objects here express an exclusive elegancy of European arts and it's impact on India. For instance, the emphasis on extravagant flag of the then states (like the Tehri Garhwal state flag).
The front lounge in the hotel is known as Lahore Lounge, which shows the 1845 Sikh war against the British. While the first floor is aptly coined as Views in Lucknow based on the siege and mutiny in Lucknow by Assistant Adjutant General David Scott Dodgson. This can be attributed to the fact that The East India Company had its main naval and military camp enforcements at Lucknow and the city situated by the banks of the river Gomti offered numerous charms to landscape artists by virtue of being the erstwhile Moghul capital. The first floor of the Southern Wing houses James Fergusson's (1808-86) works titled Rock cut Temples of India (1845).
The second floor main corridor, facing the Art Deco wing, transports the viewer to the lush Views of the Himalayas (1842) and its foothills wherein one could begin the spiritual journey of life and rediscover a newer self. Anne Eliza Scott, who was the wife of a lieutenant in the Bengal Army, was moved by the pitiful plight and uncertain future of the orphans of British soldiers at the Lawrence Asylum situated near Simla and she published her works of art under the title of Views in the Himalayas in aid of the orphans. Her lithographs feature a general view of Simla with its pretty cottages, snaking roads, tall fir trees and the famous Christ Church of Simla. Apart from Anne's lithographs, the hotel also offers is James Hunter's (who was a Lieutenant in the Royal Artillery) sketches which were titled Picturesque Scenery in the Kingdom of Mysore (1804-05). His sketches shed light on the minor places associated with Tipu Sultan and his father, for example, a music gallery in the palace at Seringapatam, the gateway to Lal Bagh and a street outside the palace at Bangalore.
Third Floor Hallway of Art is a visual treat of vivid, bright colours depicting the people and scenes of zealous life in Northern India. The awesome artistic theme on the third floor is dedicated to the grandeur, colour and vibrancy of Northern Indian culture which communicates land of fertile soils, rich yellow fields of mustard flowers, happy people with their heart.
The maverick of this hotel is an art museum of it's own with paintings reflecting the ancient India to India during the British era, so if there is a Kangra valley paintings of Shah-Jahan hunting lions of Buranpur (July, 1630) there is also paintings by Anne Eliza Scott. The Royal Ballroom is also mentionable, till date it exudes the exuberance and boasts of a huge 11 ft. by 22 ft. oil painting by Bourne and Shepherd, titled The Durbar of the Nawab of Maler Kotla, and vividly depicts the generous luxury of the early 1900s. The perfect sync with the larger than life oil painting, the pre-function areas to the Royal Ballroom proudly house life size oil portraits of royalty of seven different princely states reflecting art in those bygone days.
But as I bid adieu a painting in the lobby of Tipu Sultan Lounge The Last Effort of Tipu Sultan communicates the end of the glorious art & culture with the presence of British rulers and beginning of a new era an era where art was influenced more by European artifacts.