Chameleons, tapirs, koalas and a Fishing Cat in Natural History Museum Thomas Hardwicke lot

By Culture24 Staff | 29 June 2011
a photo of someone scanning a painting of a bird
© The Natural History Museum, London 2011. All rights reserved
An 11-month project to resurrect the collection of a 19th century Major-General who amassed the world’s largest set of drawings of Indian animals is underway at the Natural History Museum.

Chameleons, tapirs, Australian koalas, Chinese birds and a Fishing Cat are among the exotic stars depicted thanks to Thomas Hardwicke, a nature enthusiast who rose through the army ranks during service with the Honourable East India company in the early 1800s.

While roaming the subcontinent Hardwicke became fascinated with Indian wildlife, commissioning paintings of insects, birds and nearly every member of the wildlife kingdom.

On his return to England he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society and worked with the British Museum on a major folio, Illustrations of Indian Zoology, adding scientific notations to his drawings. His death in 1835 meant the book was published without the richness of his text. 

Now researchers at the Natural History Museum have taken on the ambitious task of listing, describing, measuring and referencing the images. Some of the species shown are still unknown.

  • A major exhibition of works from the collection is expected to be held in the Images of Nature gallery at the museum in 2013, when it will embrace a theme of India.
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