LONDON – Dr. William Archer and his wife Mildred are renowned for their remarkable knowledge of Indian and Anglo-Indian art, their experience living in India for over a decade from 1932–1945 having inspired their lifelong interest and love for Indian painting. Through their combined careers and enthusiasm for this field, they put together a truly impressive private collection of Indian painting, drawing and prints, The Collection of William and Mildred Archer, a number of which will be offered in the forthcoming sale of Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art in London on 8 October.

Three Kalighat Paintings. Estimate £3,000 – 4,000.

Dr. Archer, keeper of the Indian section at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, dramatically increased the collection of Indian painting, while Mildred produced numerous books on British and Company School Indian art. Archer was a recognised authority on Kalighat paintings, created by Patuas or village artists. He was one of the first critics to recognise this once-neglected style of painting, which originated in the early years of the 19th century, understanding the importance of the paintings as forerunners to the Modernist movement. The works in this sale were painted at the height of Kalighat production, and delight with their stunning colours, technique and bold linear rhythm.

The prolific couple travelled extensively in India and formed close associations with many of the artists they encountered, including the great poet and artist Rabindranath Tagore. Their meeting took place at a turning point in Tagore’s painting style; the bold lines and tall angular shapes possess a raw ferocity in contrast to his early works. Tagore’s departure from traditional Indian painting and his newly developed vigorous style captivated the Archers.


Rabindranath Tagore, Untitled. Estimate £20,000 – 30,000. 

Both William and Mildred Archer are remembered as pioneers in the appreciation of Indian painting, and their love of India exposed this art to a wider audience. The paintings offered in the sale are a tribute to the carefully chosen pieces of their collection, including two untitled works by Rabindranath Tagore, and four series’ of Kalighat paintings.

Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art, London, 8 October

Ishrat Kanga is a specialist in the Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art department, Sotheby’s London.