After serving an apprenticeship to a coach builder from 1763 to 1770 and to a coach painter from 1770 to 1773, Daniell received artistic training at the Royal Academy Schools in London, England and in 1781 was commissioned by Lord Le Despencer to paint a series of 6 paintings of West Wycombe Park, Buckinghamshire, England.
Four years later, he traveled to India as an 'engraver' with his nephew William Daniell (born 1769, died 1737). In 1786 the Daniells landed in Calcutta. While in Calcutta Thomas Daniell spent years restoring the paintings in the Council House and the Old Court House. He also produced what is noted to be the first topographical series of prints of that city. Soon he began travelling extensively with his cousin reaching Srinagar, Mysore, Madras as well as Bombay.
Upon Thomas Daniell's return to England in September 1794, he settled at 37 Holland Street, Fitzroy Square, London and quickly began translating his travel sketches into oil paintings which he exhibited both at the Royal Academy and the British Institution.
Between 1795 and 1808 Daniell, assisted by his nephew, produced what is perhaps his best-known work, one hundred and forty four hand-coloured aquatint views of India issued in 6 series entitled Oriental Scenery.
In 1796 Daniell was elected an associate of the Royal Academy and in 1799 he was made a Royal Academician. He was also a fellow of the Royal Society, the Asiatic Society, and the Society of Antiquaries. Soon he began to work for several important clients.
From 1800 to 1805 Daniell was patronized at Petworth House, Sussex by George Wyndham, third earl of Egremont. He also worked at the London mansion of the collector Thomas Hope in Duchess Street, painting views of Hindoo and Moorish architecture for Hope's Indian Room there. Later he was invited to Melchet Park, Hampshire by Major John Osborne to design an oriental garden folly (based on the porch of the temple in the fort of Rohtasgarh) which he also reproduced as an engraving. At Sezincote, Gloucestershire, Daniell was commissioned by Sir Charles Cockerell to design the garden and several ornamental garden buildings as well as to paint a series of oils of the estate which were later exhibited at the Royal Academy in London in 1818-19.
Between 1810 and 1839 Daniell also produced A Picturesque Voyage by Way of China (1810), a smaller quarto version of Oriental Scenery (1812-1816) and The Oriental Annual (1834-9).
Thomas Daniell died, unmarried, at his home, Earl's Terrace, Kensington, London, England on 19 March 1840.
Archer, Mildred Agnes, Early Views of India: The Picturesque Journeys of Thomas and William Daniell, 1786-1794: The Complete Aquatints (Thames and Hudson, New York, 1980)
'The Daniells in India'. Country Life (23 January 1958)
Eaton, Natasha, ‘Daniell, Thomas (1749-1840)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Oct 2007) [accessed 25 July 2008]
National Register of Archives, Person Details 'Daniell, William (1769-1837) landscape painter', GB/NNAF/P147132 [accessed 31 July 2008]
Shellem, Maurice, Oil Paintings of India and the East by Thomas Daniell 1749-1840 and William Daniell 1769-1837 (London: Inchcape & Company, 1979)
Tate Collection, 'Thomas Daniell', [accessed 31 July 2008]