Arts and Culture
Mainstream art history research on the modern period in South Asia is narrowly focused on a selection of practices, media and contexts, such as Raja Ravi Varma’s oil paintings and the critical responses to his work by the Bengal School and the Modernist Movement in Calcutta at the beginning of the 20th century. This field is also characterized by a devaluation of hybrid colonial art forms and by a marginalization of traditional art practices that appropriate or adapt Western techniques and visual vocabularies.
The objective of this panel is to provide – without preconceived biases – a comprehensive assessment of the diverse visual scenarios that emerged in South Asia in the period between 1880 and the Independence of India in 1947. In the late British colonial period, the establishment of Western art schools competed with local artistic expressions by affecting one another significantly. This period was also dominated by nationalist debates about such European impact versus the importance of rediscovering and reviving indigenous traditions. This panel will expand on these narratives by encouraging new conversations that reconfigure our understanding of South Asian art practices as well as their intertwined histories with Europe. It will engage with art historical discourses beyond dominant genres, contexts and narratives to examine a variety of practices within local, transregional or transnational contexts, and by including art histories previously marginalized by mainstream debates.
Our 16 speakers are junior and senior scholars from around the world and from different professional backgrounds, including academics, museum curators and art practitioners. They will present on a variety of topics addressing critical issues, such as aesthetics, historiography, nationalism, imperialism, transculturation, and revival.
The panel is subdivided into four sessions:
The first and second sessions focus on a multitude of modernist visual scenarios in South Asia and address topics like Modernism in Bengal, the Bombay School, Hindu temple architecture, photography, silver objects as gifts, regional presses, and print capitalism.
The third will concentrate on the interactions between Europe and South Asia as mediated by the genre of portraiture. Papers will address issues of autonomy, resistance, and transculturation in a variety of cultural contexts.
The fourth has a more theoretical focus by addressing different discourses on Modernism and Modernity. It will reflect, critically, on the European dominance on certain art historical discourses, canon building, and art historiography in South Asia.