Professor Hope Childers of the Art History Division recently published an essay on Indian representations of the 19th-century opium trade:
“Spectacles of Labor: Artists and Workers in the Patna Opium Factory in the 1850s.”
She considers depictions of labor at the factory, particularly in a set of nineteen paintings by Indian artist Shiva Lal, a so-called Company Painter in the Patna School, producing artworks for British patrons. She contrasts this set against a well-known series of prints by Walter Sherwill that also show factory scenes, but which cast the labor in a very different light.
Widely published as mere illustrations of opium history, but overlooked by art historians, the set by Shiva Lal narrates a story of early advancements being made by Indian artists and laborers in this period, while also exposing imperial anxieties about the China trade.