The India House Club Art Collection is remarkable and diverse. It includes marine portraits, Asian bronzes, Chinese scrolls, China Trade paintings, ship models and antique prints of New York City. This variety reflects the philosophy and formation of the beginnings of the India House Club.
India House, was formed in 1914, by some of the most prominent businessmen in New York to promote foreign trade. Due to it’s location, it’s landmark status and its origins as a trading center, India House Club epitomizes the grandeur and importance of the beginnings of lower Manhattan as the financial hub of New York.
The marine art collection harkens back to an earlier time in America when trade was conducted by merchant ships sailing to exotic ports of call. Precise records were kept of every voyage, the ports visited, distance ran and time. Marine portraits are a special genre, and great artists like William Bradford and James Buttersworth among others captured these vessels with great accuracy but managed to combine remarkable technical skill with the romantic eye of a seascapist.
Many of the Asian works in the collection come from Willard Straight, who was an American Consul-General at Mukden, Manchuria in 1906 as well as one of the original founders of India House. He brought back many Sino-Tibetan bronzes and Chinese scrolls from that region which grace the interiors of India House.
There is a group of China Trade paintings that are of special significance. From the middle of the 18th century trade had increased between China and England, America and countries in Europe for tea, porcelain and silk and led to curiosity about life in the exotic east. Guangzho (Canton) was the only port in China open to the west at that time. A cottage industry of Chinese artists was created, they painting scenes of daily life made especially for the foreign trade. George Chinnery, a Scotsman who was escaping life in England made his way to Macau and became one of the only western artists to portray life in Canton, The Houqua is a portrait of a famous Chinese merchant which hangs in the reception to the main dining room. There are only two other paintings depicting this merchant which exist, both in museum collections. The China Trade paintings give a unique sense to a particular place and time and record life from a bygone time which wasn’t that long ago.