There are over 200 watercolours painted by Elizabeth Gwillim and Mary Symonds, in Madras and environs, plus a few painted by Mary Symonds on the voyage home, and possibly one or two painted by Elizabeth’s husband, Sir Henry Gwillim.

The watercolours are held by the Blacker Wood Natural History Collection at McGill University in Montreal and the South Asia Collection in Norwich, UK.

Madras Album, The South Asia Collection, PIC106.60.

The sisters painted in the European watercolour tradition. Their training under the noted British topographical artist George Samuel (d. 1823) encouraged them to reproduce views as accurately as possible; their interest in natural history, landscape and architecture led them to make highly detailed images.

Red Munia (Amandava amandava), Rare Books and Special Collections, McGill University,
CA RBD Gwillim-1-121.

In this section of the website, you will find overviews of the Gwillim Collection and Madras Album, as well as close studies of aspects of the sisters’ artwork by Saraphina Masters and Hana Nikčević.

Saraphina Masters examines artists contemporary to the sisters and how they may have influenced the sisters’ painting styles. Hana Nikčević then looks at the artistic materials the sisters would have used. Next, Saraphina Masters then provides a close study of the backgrounds in Elizabeth’s paintings. Hana Nikčević then examines pasteboard models and how Mary’s work compares to contemporary designs. Hana Nikčević also provides an examination of Mary’s interest in portrait miniatures, and closes with analyzing Mary’s painting of a Scene from a Sanskrit Drama.