ANDREW NICHOLL R.H.A. (1804-1886)
– CEYLON –
These drawings were made by the Irish artist Andrew Nicholl in Ceylon in July 1848. He was accompanying Sir James Emerson Tennent (1804-1869), Colonial Secretary in Ceylon from 1845-1850, on an official tour of the interior of the island. Emerson Tennent had been Nicholl’s patron in Ireland and had brought him out to Ceylon in 1846 to teach drawing and design at the Colombo Academy.
Nicholl set off from Colombo with three others (and the necessary train of jungle support!) to Kandy, the ancient Kingdom in the centre of the island that had been the stronghold of resistance against the Portuguese, Dutch, and then the British. Here they met Emerson Tennent and the botanist George Gardner (1810-1849) and the extended party continued on to Matale, Dumbulla, Polonnaruwa and Anaradhapoora. From Anaradhapoora everyone continued north-east to the coast apart from Nicholl, who remained to draw the ruins.
Nicholl intended to travel back to Kandy and from there take a coach to Colombo. He was staying with the district Judge, Mr Tranchill, who accompanied him as far as Dambulla and sent him on his way with a small team of guides. But, only a few miles outside Dambulla they met fleeing villagers who told them a Rebel King had been crowned and a uprising against British rule had begun. Nicholl fled, with men sent by the King in pursuit. He arrived back in Anaradhapoora after two days in the jungle. From there he took the coastal route to Colombo, where he collapsed with jungle fever.
Nicholl published an account of the July 1848 expedition in the Dublin University Magazine, Vol.40 (1852), pp.527-540. It is a vivid and beautiful description of Ceylon and we encourage anyone who might be interested to read it CLICK HERE.
For a more general biography of Nicholl, including an account of his escape from the Rebel King’s men, we suggest
Martyn Anglesea, ‘Andrew Nicholl and His Patrons in Ireland and Ceylon’, Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review, Vol. 71, No. 282 (Summer, 1982), pp. 130-151.
Provenance: All drawings descended through the Emerson Tennant family, Co Fermanagh.
A special thanks to Dr Isuru Kariyawasam in Sri Lanka for his help in identifying many of these locations and subjects, and for providing such interesting commentary on them.