Masters of Indian Painting 1100-1900 (Set of 2 Volumes)

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Item Code: NAJ998
Author: Milo C. Beach
Publisher: Niyogi Books
Language: English
Edition: 2015
ISBN: 9789383098682
Pages: 840 (Throughout Color Illustrations)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 12.0 inch x 9.0 inch
Weight 5.30 kg
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Book Description
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About the Book


The artistic achievements of great masters of painting in India are emphasized in this encyclopaedic study. Recent discussions of these paintings have tended to focus on their themes with these shown as reflections of religious values and practices for example or as representations of a courtly way of life. Masters of Indian Painting instead identifies many of the greatest Indian artists and emphasizes their finest works as individual artistic achievements. This involves an art-historical shift. The supposed anonymity of craftsmen in India has traditionally been given prominence. Significant information has become available about those who have produced these pictures. however. and many paintings signed or otherwise inscribed with the artist's name are now known. Newly identified self-portraits further proclaim the respect that has in fact long been given to individual master artists.


Recognizing the importance of these shifts of emphasis and using all of this new documentary information many of the leading scholars of Indian art have produced new studies of master painters and their inter-relationships and new interpretations of their achievements. Full of magnificent illustrations. Masters of Indian Painting is presented in homage to the great artists of India.





That the project" Masters of Indian Painting: 1100-1900" has been taken up by the Museum Rietberg and Artibus Asiae Publishers needs to be seen against the following background: this Swiss museum focusing on non-Western art was one of the first to emphasize the fact that all major artworks were produced by outstanding individuals, and that labelling them only as works from specific "regions" or "ethnic groups" is not appropriate and wherever possible, the producer should be named and honored for his achievements. Therefore monographic exhibitions on non-Western artists of the past like the West African Guro carver Boti (in 1993), the Indian painter Nainsukh (in 1999) and the 18th-century Chinese painter Luo Ping (in 2009). to name a few, were produced all first-time art-historical achievements.


In 1990, the highly successful exhibition "Pahari Masters Court Painters of Northern India" took place at the Museum Rietberg. The project was supported by the Government of Himachal Pradesh and united 170 works of fourteen major painters from the Panjab Hills. This exhibition became the very first major show to focus on the artistic achievements of highly distinguished painters from one region of India. With the accompanying publication a series of highly valuable Artibus Asiae supplementa on Indian painting and painters was begun, emphasizing the importance of the individual artists in a given regional and historical context. These publications were authored by distinguished art historians, most of whom have also contributed to these two volumes, which are published as Artibus Asiae Supplementum 481/11.


It was our great luck that we were able to win over three of the foremost scholars for this project as editors of this ambitious new publication: Milo C. Beach, B.N. Goswamy and Eberhard Fischer. In several meetings we discussed the focus and intention of such a book and agreed that this is the right moment to make a clear statement that all major Indian paintings are works of great masters, that the mist of anonymity has been lifted thanks to the scholarship of many art historians, mostly in the last three decades.


This bold plan a grand exhibition accompanied by these two volumes on some of the greatest Indian painters was taken up by our rather small museum with limited funds and resources. Luckily, we have been supported by a great number of scholars who produced articles on their favourite Indian painters. It was not easy, and in fact not always possible, to get the reproduction rights for all the paintings with which the authors wanted to illustrate the specific quality of their masters. We deeply regret failures in obtaining image rights for some of the paintings and hope that everyone owning one of these great masterpieces will feel proud that their painting is being made known to the world's art-lovers and is included in these volumes.


This two-volume publication was produced in conjunction with an exhibition on Indian master painters held first at the Museum Rietberg in summer 2011, and then at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The funds of the non-profit organization Artibus Asiae Publishers are not sufficient for such a commercially unviable production, and we therefore very much appreciate the financial support of the Publication Foundation for the Museum Rietberg and an anonymous Swiss foundation which made a major contribution toward this enormous project. We would also like to thank all those who waived fees and honorariums. The accompanying exhibition was sponsored by Novartis and the G+B Schwyzer Foundation, which made it possible to include over 240 artworks and to show almost the whole range of Indian master painters represented in these volumes.


I have counted on the support of a great number of people. I would especially like to thank Milo Beach for his creative masterminding, B.N. Goswamy for his inspiring approach to painting, and Eberhard Fischer for supporting and contributing to this project all the way through its long course. To achieve consistency throughout the more than 800 pages this publication encompasses has not always been easy and I highly appreciate the patience all authors have had with me and Artibus Asiae and also the input from many of them regarding the choice of exhibits. Julie Pickard has done an incredible job of going through all the essays that I had brought somewhat into the desired shape. Caroline Widmer, exhibition assistant. was always able to calm me down when things got wild; many thanks! I am also indebted to Wheeler Thackston, who has been advising on transcriptions and translations. The last link in the chain is always the one most affected by undesired delays; our book designer Elizabeth Hefti and the typesetter Claudia Rossi worked up to the last minute before these volumes went to press.


I would furthermore like to express my gratitude to Barbara Fischer for her generous hospitality at the Fluh, likewise Robin Beach for her hospitality at Meadow's End and to my wife Nicole for her support. A large number of people have contributed to this project and I am deeply grateful for their help without mentioning them all.




For centuries, across all of its dramatically varied landscape, the Indian subcontinent has encouraged a rich array of master artists active in a wide range of media. These two volumes explore a number of the region's greatest painters, although there are many others equally worthy of inclusion.' The selection has been restricted both by the limitations of space and by the availability of scholars willing to take on the new, exploratory studies that are so needed. With the exception of a small number of painters and those mostly employed at royal courts individual artists working in India have not yet drawn the depth of art-historical attention they deserve.


While Masters of Indian Painting concentrates on artists, this is not to dismiss the crucial importance of individual patrons to India's artistic life. Earlier studies often emphasized the personal characteristics of maharajas, sultans, nobles, and emperors in determining the styles of the painters they employed? Such historical figures tend to draw attention to themselves by colorful eccentric behavior, and contemporary records frequently provide a rich context that entertains as much as it informs. As discussed here, several patrons closely monitored the work of their artists; but no matter how encouraging or indifferent this oversight might have been, ultimate responsibility for the result always remained with the painter.


In contrast to that of many rulers and patrons, the life of an artist was normally undocumented, and only by looking closely at the paintings themselves, at any accompanying inscriptions, and at the few existing historical references naming individual artists can personal identities be recognized. In these volumes, each essay is organized to include such information when it is available. Only by taking these into account can we understand how differently individual painters responded to the interests of the same patron or to the demands of a shared historic or geographic context, and thus how brilliantly (and often subtly) distinctive the best painters could be. The growing presence over time of signatures and inscriptions, and the occasional depictions of artists, whether informally or within commissioned court scenes, provide further evidence that the talent and personality of individual master painters became increasingly important to understanding the expressive power of many pictures.


No artist worked in isolation, and it may have been the initial scholarly need to isolate and identify broadly the different "schools "3 and workshops, to organize quickly the abundant and unfamiliar material being released from private collections in India directly into the art market, that inhibited the more demanding study of painters as individuals. This was justifiable, of course. Artists most often worked for patrons (who could range from individuals to religious communities) in workshops that might be sizeable establishments or limited to a single painter." The dominant traits of each of these organizations needed to be understood first. The following short narrative, orally transmitted in the Panjab Hills." makes clear that the artist expected his patron to appreciate not only his work, but also to refine his taste and viewing capacity according to the painter"s development: "creativity" or "inventions" were to be detected in minute details: In the past, there lived a fine painter at one of the royal courts of the hills. Once, when he had finished a small picture of Krishna caressing and massaging the delicate feet of his beloved Radha after taking bath, he went to the local raja, to present him his new painting he was quite proud about. The king received the picture, had a look and was pleased with it; he showed it to his nobles and ordered payment to be made to the painter, who, however, was not satisfied with the raja's reaction and under some pretext took it back and, sad and disappointed, left the court. well aware that his artistic pride might meet with serious sanctions, When walking home with his picture wrapped in a cloth, his friend, a goldsmith, saw him and asked for seeing his new work, When he expressed his admiration, the painter wanted to know, what he found especially enjoyable in this picture, The goldsmith replied that he had seen many paintings of this theme, but it was here for the first time, that a painter had placed a rose-petal between Krishnas fingertip and the delicate sole of Radha inserting the softest thing he could imagine for the massage. This tiny detail was precisely the innovative variant that the painter had introduced in a quite well-worn theme! In recognition of this real connoisseurship the painter donated his picture to the man who had carefully viewed the painting and with sensibility enjoyed its hidden artistic quality.


The earliest training that artists received, however, was often family-based, and family interrelationships are stressed here (see the essays on Aqa Riza and Abu'l Hasan, Basawan and Manohar, Payag and Balchand, Bhavanidas and Dalchand, Kripal, Devidasa and Golu, Manaku and Nainsukh, Bagta and Chokha, and so on). This early training was often a decisive element in the later evolution of their work: Abd al-Samad, Farrukh Beg, and Aqa Riza, Iranian emigre artists who arrived in India in the later 16th century, for example, never accepted for their own work in India the interest in physical realism and individualized portraiture that intrigued emperor Akbar and that was often effortlessly mastered by painters born on the subcontinent. Throughout their careers, the Persian aesthetic these masters learned in Iran as young acolyte artists remained paramount.


There is ample evidence that some artists traveled extensively beyond the routine return to family homes for festivals of other important occasions. While a few painters came to India from Iran, even more moved among different regional centers on the subcontinent. Farrukh Beg, already a mature artist. traveled from Iran to work sequentially at Kabul. Lahore, Bijapur, and Agra, his work in India thus relating to at least four different courts and patrons. Bishandas, a major imperial Mughal artist. reversed the usual direction of travel. He was sent to Iran with an official embassy, to make portraits of the Iranian ruler and his court. Other artists moved between Mughal and Rajput patronage (e.g. the Masters of the Chunar Ragamala or Bhavanidas), while further examples are cited of artists who -like Bagta and Chokha moved their workshops within their home states, or e.g. the "Stipple Master" of Amar Singh 11, Devidasa, or Nainsukh established themselves at courts further afield.


Such experiences allowed these artistically minded men access to collections and to works by other painters. When they were open enough to recount these travels to their peers, or to demonstrate any new techniques learned or witnessed, their colleagues can be considered to have "traveled" too, if by proxy. While it was the patrons who often made these journeys possible, an employer was in no position to control how an artist was affected by what he saw, or its impact on his work. Farrukh Beg, for example, despite his discomfort with the style of painting encouraged in the imperial studios, seems to have been influenced by one of the greatest Akbari masters, Basawan. In turn, he had immense personal impact on the work of Muhammad 'Ali and 'Ali Riza, and was himself responsible for introducing astrongly Oeccani flavor into Jahangirs workshops. Baqta's moves between Udaipur, Oevgarh, and probably Jaipur prompted constant adjustments of his style according to the taste of his current patron or by the cultural atmosphere he was temporarily part of.


Many artists, therefore, were very alert to the range of stylistic choices being made by their colleagues, and the inclusion of new and surprising narratives or details in his work was one way for an artist to receive his patron's attention and perhaps a tangible reward. These details could include direct observations, new combinations of details familiar from other paintings, reinterpretations of the works of colleagues, or copies and adaptations drawn from such unfamiliar sources as European prints anything that might proclaim the superiority of the artist's own talent. Regarding the few women artists' so far identified in a Mughal context, it was copies of illustrations (Persian works or European prints) that formed the basis for their work; we have no evidence that they were encouraged to depict court events, personalities, or other subjects based on direct observation.


Even in the case of painters being retained at a court (with a fixed annual income and some land grant) there was certainly always an element of competition in these presentations. What seems especially interesting and relatively unexplored is precisely the interrelationship of contemporary traditions, and for this reason Masters of Indian Painting is organized into historical periods, avoiding the divisions created by the isolation of works into such community-based or regional categories as Buddhist, Sultanate, Mughal, Rajput, Rajasthani, or Oeccani, and so on. Like all political boundaries, these often confuse the understanding of cultural identity and cultural interaction.













Indian Painting from 1100 to 1500


Mahavihara Master


The Master of the Jainesque Sultanate Shahnama


The Master of the Devasano Pado Kalpasutra




Indian Painting from 1500 to 1575


The Masters of the dispersed Bhagavata Purana


Master of the Laur Chanda Series


Abd al-Samad




Indian Painting from 1575 to 1650






Keshav Das




Farrukh Beg


Aqa Riza and Abu'l Hasan








Muhammad 'Ali


The Masters of the Chunar Ragamala and the Hada Master










'Ali Riza (The Bodleian Painter)




The Early Master at the Court of Mandi




Indian Painting from 1650 to 1730




Masters of Early Kota Painting


The Sirohi Master


The First Bahu Master


The Master at the Court of Mankot, possibly Meju


The "Stipple Master"




Chitarman II (Kalyan Das)






Indian Painting from 1730 to 1825


Nihal Chand


Mir Kalan Khan


Sahib Ram




Nainsukh of Guler


The First Generation after Manaku and Nainsukh of Guler


Purkhu of Kangra


Bagta and Chokha




Indian Painting from 1825 to 1900


A Maisor Court Painter of the Early 19th Century


Masters of the "Company" Portraits


Ghasiram Sharma




The Technique of Indian Painters- A short note


Painting Workshops in Mughal India




Image Credits


Index of Painters



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