South Asian Aesthetics

University of Pennsylvania, Fall 2014

Session 11: The Visual, Truth and History in the Indic Tradition

krishna_balaram

Coordinator: Yvonne

Do we ‘see’ only with our eyes, or are other faculties at work?  Can our visual perceptions ever be unmediated by other things such as language or tradition?  Is visual art always about representation? Or can visual art operate in a different way? 

The headings for this and the following session, “The Visual, Truth and History in the Indo-Islamicate Tradition” are admittedly a bit misleading.  As we will see in the readings, the two cannot be completely separated from one another due to the significant and productive exchanges that occurred between them.  For example, Molly Aitken’s The Intelligence of Tradition in Rajput Court Painting reveals just how influential Rajput and Mughal painting styles were upon each other, sharing thematic and stylistic elements, and sometimes even the same human agents (the painters themselves).

The picture is further complicated by the inclusion of readings and case studies from the post-colonial period, as well as pre-colonial traditions.  What relationship do ways of seeing in the post-colonial period have with these earlier modes of seeing and telling through the visual?  Let these be some of your guiding questions, and do not let the somewhat arbitrary division of the material into two sessions prevent you from seeing connections between the various texts, works, and phenomena.

Conceptual readings:

  1. Misra, R.N. “Art and Religion: A Study of Relations in Early India.” In Indian Art: Forms, Concerns and Development in Historical Perspective, edited by B.N. Goswamy.  Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 2000. 59-75.
  2. Aitken, Molly. “Structures of Desire” and “Interpreting Style” in The Intelligence of Tradition in Rajput Court Painting. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010.  11-109.
  3. Mazumdar, Ranjani. “The Bombay Film Poster: a Short Biography.” In India’s Popular Culture: Iconic Spaces and Fluid Images, edited by Jyotindra Jain. Bombay: Marg, 2007. 90-103.
  4. Pinney, Christopher. “What Pictures Want Now: Rural Consumers of Images, 1980-2000.” In ‘Photos of the Gods’: The Printed Image and Political Struggle in India. 1London: Reaktion Books, 2004. 81-200

Suggested (but not required) readings:

  1. Bäumer, Bettina. “Yoga and Art: An Indian Approach.” In Indian Art: Forms, Concerns and Development in Historical Perspective, edited by B.N. Goswamy.  Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 2000. 77-90.
  2. Desai, Devangana. “The Temple as an Ordered Whole— the Iconic Scheme at Khajuraho.” In Art and Icon: Essays on Early Indian Art. New Delhi: Aryan Books International, 2013. 134-153.

Case studies:

Selected images from the publications listed above will be used as case studies in class.  In addition, we will also look at the following works if we have time:

  1. Varma, Ravi. Shakuntala. 20th century.
  2. ———. Snuff box illustration. 20th century.
  3. Valázquez, Diego. Las Meninas. 1656.
  4. Angelico, Fra. The Anunciation. c 1428.
  5. Bosch, Hieronymus. The Garden of Earthly Delights, 1503-1504. Oil on wood.

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