This Catalogue of Rajasthani paintings in the Jagdish and Kamla Mittal Museum of Indian Art features many unpublished works by the best-known artists working in different states and thikanas of Rajasthan from the early 16th to the mid 19th century. Five leading scholars of Indian painting have joined forces to write detailed and eloquent analysis of these rare works, blending fresh insights into the varied themes and fundamental art historical developments of Rajasthani painting with new attributions to individual masters. Jagdish and Kamla Mittal, an artist couple with exceptionally discerning taste, assembled this superlative collection of paintings over a period of more than sixty years. Though these exquisite paintings are sure to delight, they are also crucial for the study of the Rajasthani art. The outstanding quality of the illustrations, the selection of choice details, and the inclusion of historically important comparative material make this book essential to anyone who enjoys or studies Rajasthani paintings.
I and the Trustees of the Jagdish and Kamla Mittal Museum of Indian Art are happy to bring out this catalogue of Rajasthani paintings in the Museum. This catalogue, the seventh we have published in recent years, follows through on our commitment to publish a catalogue focused on each category or style of works in the Museum, and thus make the Museum a major vehicle in the dissemination of new scholarly information on Indian art.
Ananda K. Coomaraswamy was the first scholar to publish several Rajasthani paintings in his pioneering Rajput Painting (1916) a century ago; he built upon this initial effort with a second work, a volume on Rajput Painting (1926) that formed part of his multi-volume opus, Catalogue of the Indian Collections in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston: Rajasthani Painting (1923-30). Both these publications, however, also included Pahari paintings, and their selection from the vast range of paintings from Rajasthan was inevitably limited, for at the time most Rajasthani paintings were still in family collections of various states in the region.
An important leap forward in the study of Rajasthani paintings occurred in 1950, when several scholars of the next generation began to lay the foundation for the field by publishing a substantial number of previously unknown Rajasthani paintings. Karl J. Khandalavala discussed the characteristics of early 17th-century Rajasthani works and a Mewar-style Bhagavata Purana manuscript of 1648 in a much-heralded issue of Marg magazine. In the same year Hermann Goetz published several Bikaner paintings in The Art and Architecture of Bikaner State, and Basil Gray reproduced a number of Rajasthani paintings of different styles in his section on painting in the catalogue of the landmark exhibition Art of India and Pakistan, held at the Royal Academy, London, in 1947- 48.
Although the understanding of Indian painting generally was advanced by several articles and books published later in the 1950s, most dealt primarily with either Pahari or Jain paintings and contained little about Rajasthani material because unstudied works of this style were still not available to scholars. Paintings from India's court collections flooded the art market after the country gained independence in 1947, but until the early 1950s most were by Pahari and Central Indian artists. After the mid 1950s, however, works from the ancestral collections of Rajasthan came onto the art market with great regularity. Their variety of styles, unusual compositions, lively hunting scenes, bold execution, and vibrant colours immediately endeared them to scholars and collectors. Since they were available in large numbers, their prices were generally cheaper than paintings in other styles.
After the 1950s, many books and articles on the history of Rajasthani states also appeared. These have helped to identify the rulers and other individuals portrayed in these works, and have provided other kinds of information that facilitated scholarly writing on Rajasthani paintings. As a perusal of the bibliography here indicates, the pace of publications about Rajasthani painting has been relatively steady since 1960. Nonetheless, many individual regional styles remain to be explored in adequate depth, and a comprehensive and up-to-date book on Rajasthani painting has yet to be written.
As I recollect, some of the most important groups of Rajasthani paintings made their way onto the art market in quick succession after the mid 1950s. Notable among these were the 1649 Ramayana of Jagat Singh of Mewar (1953), Bundi paintings (1953), Kishangarh paintings (1960), the c. 1525 "Palam" Bhagavata Purana of either Mewar or the Delhi/Agra region (1958), the 1591 Chunar Ragamala (1960s), Bikaner painting (Khajanchi Collection)(1961), Devgarh paintings (1964), the "Boston" Ragamala (1966), the c. 1575 "Isarda" Bhagavata Purana and the c. 1660 Bundi Ragamala (1967), and Badnore paintings (1970). A number of works published herein were once part of these groups. Paintings from several thikanas and family collections were also offered for sale from the 1950s until the 1970s. Some were works of great aesthetic quality, and many were signed by or ascribed to individual artists. The plenitude and variety of this material have permitted scholars to formulate a more complete and nuanced picture of the spectrum of painting styles in Rajasthan, including increasingly detailed accounts of the careers and movement of individual artists.
By 1970, the availability of good Rajasthani paintings, like works of other Indian styles, was reduced considerably, and when the Antiquities and Art Treasures Act of 1972 was implemented in 1976, the sources of their supply practically dried up altogether. Coincidentally, about 1974, I decided, together with my wife Kamla, to create a museum of our collection in Hyderabad. For this purpose, we set up a Public Trust, named the Jagdish and Kamla Mittal Museum of Indian Art in 1976 and donated our entire collection to it.
Assembling this collection of Rajasthani paintings and producing the present catalogue have required the sustained efforts of a number of people. Foremost among them was my late wife, Kamla, who always shared in the thrill of the acquisition of each of our Museum's art objects and along with me savoured the enormously satisfying aesthetic pleasure they provided.
My profound thanks to John Seyller, who wholeheartedly agreed to be one of a team of co-authors of this catalogue, and helped coax other eminent scholars of Indian painting - Milo Cleveland Beach, Catherine Glynn, and Andrew Topsfield - to write on areas of Rajasthani painting in which they have deep expertise. (Authorship is indicated by initials at the end of each section or entry.) Additionally, John volunteered to serve as editor of this volume, and painstakingly checked and integrated all the entries by these scholars to ensure consistency throughout the catalogue. His annual visits to Hyderabad over the last eleven years and many hours of work with me on the Museum's catalogues are evidence of his unwavering dedication to the Museum and its mission. I offer my heartfelt gratitude to all the co-authors of this catalogue for their insightful and expeditious contributions. We are indebted, too, to Heidi Pauwels for her valuable comments on a panoramic view of the pilgrimage route at Mount Govardhan (cat. no. 77).
Among those who made vital contributions to the formation of this collection of Rajasthani paintings are the late Ram Gopal Vijayvargiya, Tara Chand and Hari Narayan Ghiya of Jaipur; the late Moti Chand Khajanchi of Bikaner; the late Nandagopal Mehra and his son, the late Hargopal; the late C.L. Nowlakha; Sultan Singh Backliwal, and Narendra Gupta, all of New Delhi; the late Harish Chand Agarwala and his son, Kishen Chand Agarwala of Hyderabad; and the late Colonel R.K. Tandan of Secunderabad.
I admire Naozar Chenoy, Trustee-Secretary of the Museum, for his cheerful counsel and unstinting support of our efforts to see this catalogue through to print and to maintain the high standards envisaged by the Trustees. I also wish to thank the others whose help enriched this publication. Foremost among them are various museums that generously granted us permission to publish comparative examples of paintings in their collections. I deeply appreciate also the contributions of Anna Seyller, who formatted and helped proofread the text; Radhika Rajamani for carefully checking the text; P. Parameshwar Raju, a sensitive graphic artist and Museum Trustee, for the elegant book design; A. Narayana Rao, who typed portions of it; my grandchildren, T.M. Anirudh and Uma Devi, for taking exquisite photographs. Additionally Uma Devi also supervised the production of this catalogue, and Naveen Kumar, (CEO of the Museum) oversaw its timely publication. Special thanks to Kumara Guru for meticulous image editing, and to P. Narendra and his team at Pragati Offset Private Limited, Hyderabad, for their personal attention to the printing process.
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