Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Godfrey Vigne: Saved by a Sketchbook

Godfrey T. Vigne (1801-1863) was a wealthy lawyer who happened to be an artist as well. He resolved to travel to the dangerous territories in the western Himalaya, entering Kashmir, Ladakh, with forays into Tibet and Afghanistan. All these regions were little known to Westerners in those days. 

Accompanying him was another intrepid explorer Alexander Burnes of Scotland. 

The Kuzzelbash of Kabul, Watercolour, Afghanistan, 1836, 
Pencil, pen and ink, and watercolour, Victoria and Albert Museum

"Vigne got himself out of tight spots by drawing pictures, usually for alarmed villagers or angry chieftains, who would swing from 'fury to a chuckle' on seeing their faces rendered in watercolour. 'I put them in good humor by scratching off two or three caricature portraits, and distributing a little medicine.' As war brewed, Vigne escaped unnoticed; the flamboyant Burnes was later cut to pieces by an angry mob."
Godfrey T. Vigne on Wikipedia


Karl Kanner said...

That's very interesting...and terrifying!

Susan Krzywicki said...

Oh dear...caricatures? I am really hesitant to say this - yet I think I gotta: colonialism stinks.

James Gurney said...

Susan, I think the sketches he's talking about were from about 5 years before the Anglo-Afghan war started in 1839, so I think he was doing these sketches more as a vulnerable pioneering traveler rather than an overbearing colonialist. "Caricature" here I take to means a sketch that captures the main features simply, more trenchant than insulting.

Susan Krzywicki said...

OK, learning new things can be a pain, and yet can be fun. I did go back and do some reading this evening about Afghanistan...and what they called The Great Game - where, starting in 1830, the Russian Empire and the British Empire were battling to take over control in Afghanistan. So I guess that Godfrey Vigne was, then not a colonialist since the region was not completely controlled by the British forces?

That term, colonialism, I should not have used. I am not sure what other term to substitute, since I still think his approach sounded patronizing - and I am also still worried about that word, caricature. The idea of a caricature not being an exaggeration, but trenchant, is that a modern usage?

I once took a caricature class and it wound up making me uncomfortable - it doesn't seem nice to make fun of people for the way they look...something people are just simply born with. I thought the word caricature just meant "exaggerated." Not like the word "cartoon" which I know has two major meanings.