Wednesday, October 11, 2006

ARTICLE 633 - Masterworks of Indian Painting at MFA Boston

[October 10,2006] ART DAILY.COM

Asking Her to Leave Her Noisy Anklets Behind and Go, Foloi from a Gita Govinda series, By Manaku of Guler, 1730. Opaque watercolor, gold, and beetle-wing cases on paper, San Diego Museum of Art, Edwin Binney 3rd Collection, 1990:1050. Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

BOSTON: Domains of Wonder: Masterworks of Indian Painting, which recently opened at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), features more than 100 of the finest examples of Indian painting spanning five centuries––the 14th century through the colonial period. Drawn from the renowned Edwin Binney 3rd Collection at the San Diego Museum of Art––the largest and most important holding of South Asian painting outside of India––this is the first time these master paintings have circulated as a nationally touring exhibition. It is also the first major exhibition of Indian art to be held in Boston in more than two decades. To mark the opening of Domains of Wonder, His Excellency, the Ambassador of India, Ronen Sen, will travel from Washington, D.C. to speak at the opening reception and commence the event with a traditional Indian lamp lighting ceremony. To further celebrate the exhibition, the MFA has planned a number of public programs, including film screenings, a community open house with a South Asian theme, a musical performance, lecture, and gallery discussions and classes. (See attached document for further information.) Domains of Wonder will be on view in the MFA’s Torf Gallery through November 26, 2006. The media sponsor is Classical 102.5 WCRB.

Additionally, a new Museum acquisition by contemporary artist Shahzia Sikander, a large striking canvas titled Pathology of Suspension #6 (2005), will be on view in close proximity to Domains of Wonder, as well as an installation titled Telling Tales: Generating Narratives from Indian Paintings, comprising a superb selection of paintings from the MFA’s own collection that illustrate widely-told Indian tales. “Domains of Wonder brings to Boston many rarely-seen master paintings from a world-class collection,” said Malcolm Rogers, Ann and Graham Gund Director of the MFA. “We’re pleased to have the opportunity to share these magnificent examples of Indian painting as well as India’s rich culture with Museum visitors.” Painting in India has a long history, during which different styles developed in varying regional and religious contexts. Divided into eight sections, Domains of Wonder addresses the many aspects of Indian painting. Works are grouped loosely by chronology, but also by the dominant quality or spirit of each. These shared qualities are reflected in the titles given to each section:

I. Terse Assertions (Jain, Sultanate, and Other Works)
Artists of the 14th and 15th centuries concisely and emphatically stated their subjects on the pages of manuscripts or within complex devotional icons, as seen in the works in this section such as The worlds of gods and saviours: vividh tirtha-patta (early 15th century). This two-dimensional icon shows a Jina, a liberated being and main object of worship for followers of Jainism, sitting in meditation within an elaborate temple.

II. Rooted in the Earth (Works Derived from Mostly Pre-Mughal Sources)
This section highlights how the indigenous painting traditions of India found expression in manuscripts of sacred and secular literature. The Bhagavata Purana, part of the literature of Hinduism, inspired The Sports of Love (mid-16th century).

III. Devotion, Passion, and Heroism (Paintings from Rajasthani Courts)
Rajput painting from the northwestern state of Rajasthan consists of works made for princes and nobles during the time of the Mughal empire (about 1550-1850). Each court developed its own aesthetic, however they all admired formal, aristocratic refinement, as well as the thrill of the hunt. In The final battle: the Goddess takes down the demon, Shumbha (about 1700) by Sirohi Rajasthan and taken from a Devimahatmya––the most sacred text for those who worship the goddess as the supreme divinity––the goddess is battling with demon brothers who have wreaked havoc on the world.

IV. Engaging with the Visible World (Mughal Paintings)
Artists who were trained in both Indian and Persian traditions worked together in an atelier (a royal painting workshop) to produce work for their patrons, the Mughal emperors. Examples in this section include the painting Lovers by a Tree (about 1725)––depicting a stolen moment between two young lovers amid a verdant landscape.

V. Sultans and Mystics (Works from the Deccan)
The Deccan Plateau is a vast area which encompasses most of central and southern India. Turks, Persians, Arabs, and Africans inhabited this area, along with Indian Muslims and Hindus. This ethnic diversity is seen in Muhammad Adil Shah selects a jewel (about 1650) in which Ikhlas Khan, an Abyssinian who rose to high rank and power, is depicted holding a tray with offerings to the sultan seated in the center.

VI. Clarity of Vision (Paintings from Pahari Workshops)
The Pahari region, also known as the Punjab Hills, lies in the western foothills of the Himalayas, and was home to many small kingdoms under the aegis of the Mughal empire. Each court identified with a particular artistic style. Asking Her to Leave Her Noisy Anklets Behind and Go (1730), is an elaborately crafted and sensuous work by Manaku of Guler, from the Seu family workshop of Guler, one of the most gifted families of painters in the Pahari area.

VII. Different Strands (Works from Local and Little-Known Centers)
Important artistic movements, aside from the mainstream Mughal or Rajput styles, developed in other regional centers throughout India from the 17th to 19th centuries. These reveal the diversity of the painters’ individual visions. The enigmatic Lady Praying at a Shrine (18th century) reflects both an ability to paint a refined, naturalistic human face, as well as virtuosity with the technique of marbled paper, which flows throughout the entire painting.

VIII. Changing Tastes (Paintings Made Chiefly under European Influence)
In the 18th and 19th centuries, British colonial presence resulted in major shifts in the styles of paintings produced in India. Indian artists worked for both British patrons, as well as Indian patrons who were fond of the realism of European academic painting. A Green-Winged Macaw (1780), attributed to Shaikh Zain al-Din, delineates every detail of the colorful bird with precision.

“We’re extremely pleased to continue the Museum’s profound connection with India initiated nearly a century ago by the groundbreaking scholar and theorist Ananda Coomaraswamy, the MFA’s first curator for Indian art,” said Woodman Taylor, the recently appointed Assistant Curator of South Asian and Islamic Art at the MFA. “With Domains of Wonder, we are furthering this legacy by presenting five centuries of superlative Indian painting.”

THE BINNEY COLLECTION
In 1990, the late Edwin Binney 3rd, heir to the Crayola fortune, bequeathed his collection of South Asian art to the San Diego Museum of Art. Comprising over 1,450 works, this encyclopedic collection has examples of nearly every court, style, movement, and subject from all regions of the Indian subcontinent. The works range in date from the 6th through 20th centuries, with the strength of the collection in paintings from India from the 15th through 19th centuries. A scholar and expert collector, Dr. Binney devoted nearly three decades of his life, before his death in 1986, to selecting important and distinctive works to create one of the most comprehensive collections of South Asian paintings in the world.

EXHIBITION ORGANIZATION/TOUR
Domains of Wonder has been organized by the San Diego Museum of Art and will be at the MFA (September 20-November 26, 2006) before traveling to the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University in Atlanta (December 16, 2006–March 11, 2007) and the Dallas Museum of Art (November 18, 2007–January 27, 2008).

PUBLICATIONS
Domains of Wonder: Selected Masterworks of Indian Painting, a full-color catalogue publication

Article Courtesy: ART DAILY.

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