Lowell Libson & Jonny Yarker Ltd

  • Watercolour
  • 6 × 9 inches · 160 × 230 mm
  • c. 1820
    Inscribed in ink in the artist’s hand


  • Eyre & Hobhouse, London, 1981;
  • Private collection, purchased from the above, to 2015


  • London, Eyre & Hobhouse, The Other Side of the Verandah: Watercolours drawings and photographs of Anglo-Indian interiors in the British period, 1800 to 1900, December 1981, no. 35.

This wry self-portrait caricature was made by the prolific amateur artist Charles D’Oyly; the frustrated artist is shown surrounded by a sequence of abandoned works, a caption on the right asks: ‘What’s the matter?’ to which D’Oyly replies: ‘can’t draw – all failures – trees like cabbages!’ The drawing is titled by D’Oyly: ‘the consequence of not having drawn for 6 months.’ 

D’Oyly was a career civil servant based in Bengal, his first major appointment was as collector at Dacca in 1808. This was followed by a period in Calcutta, as deputy collector and then collector, where he was at the centre of Calcutta society and of its artistic and musical life. In 1820 he moved to Patna as opium agent, becoming commercial resident there in 1831. His house was a centre of hospitality for local society (both British and Indian) and for visitors on their way to and from Upper India. His duties did not keep him too busy and 'his pencil like his hookah-snake was always in his hand.’ A fine draughtsman, his topographic drawings in pen or pencil can be of great skill and sensitivity, whether of India or the Cape. This comic self-portrait offers a fascinating interior view of D’Oyly’s studio, showing his open paint box, colours and brushes laid out on a table, a landscape on his easel and a portfolio full of works open on the chair next to him.