On display in London, natural history paintings by an obscure 19th-century Bengali artist by Malini Roy from Scroll.in

The British Library has loaned 20 paintings and manuscripts to the Wallace Collection in London for the “Forgotten Masters” exhibition, running through April 2020. Included are a selection of four works by the relatively unknown artist Haludar, whose natural history drawings are on display for the very first time.

When the exhibition curator William Darymple started scoping paintings to be included in the exhibition, I brought to his attention the natural history drawings in the collection commissioned by the Scottish surgeon Dr Francis Buchanan-Hamilton – 1762–1829, hereafter referred to as Buchanan – at the turn of the 19th century. When I showed him the delicate paintings of a moloch gibbon, a sloth bear, a long-tailed macaque and the gerbils painted by the artist Haludar, Dalrymple was intrigued and we started considering the conservation aspects in displaying these works for the first time.

Sloth bear drawn for Francis Buchanan by Haludar, circa 1799-1806. Credit: British Library (CC Public Domain)

In researching the Buchanan collection at the British Library, which consists of several hundred natural history alongside countless volumes of his notes, I met with Dr Ralf Britz an ichthyologist, or fish scientist, at the Natural History Museum, who was working on Buchanan’s volume on Fishes of the Ganges held in the British Library. When I mentioned my plans to work on the drawings of mammals in the Library’s collection and researching the artist Haludar, he immediately sent me a scientific article by the French zoologist Henri de Blainville. In 1816, de Blainville wrote in the science bulletin, par la Société philomathique de Paris, that a new species of Cervus niger could be identified “after a very beautiful coloured drawing that was completed on site by Haludar, an Indian painter”. After reading this article, I started to look at other early 19th century periodicals to see if any other zoologists were looking at de Blainville’s work or by chance also mentioned Haludar.

Indian sambar deer, Cervus Niger, drawn for Francis Buchanan by Haludar, circa 1799-1806, Barrackpore. Credit: British Library (CC Public Domain)

I discovered that in 1819, the German naturalist Lorenz Oken’s periodical Isis also made reference to Cervus niger, stating it was “painted on the spot by the master painter Haludar”. Both references to Cervus niger, which is an Indian Sambar deer, provided only brief descriptions of the species, and omitted to give details regarding the source of the scientific information as well as the location of the artwork by Haludar. However, in cross-referencing C niger with Haludar, we are directed to a single drawing in the British Library’s collection that was commissioned by Francis Buchanan inscribed with the artist’s name, that had been deposited at the Company’s library on Leadenhall Street, London in 1808. This painting of Cervus niger is one of 28 natural history drawings now held in the British Library that are inscribed Haludar Pinxt and that were prepared between 1795 and 1818, when Buchanan was working as a surgeon for the East India Company and actively documenting botanical and zoological specimens during his travels across the subcontinent.

This article first appeared on British Library’s Untold Lives blog.

More: https://scroll.in/article/952818/on-display-in-london-natural-history-paintings-by-an-obscure-19th-century-bengali-artist

MYSTICISM IN MINIATURE ART: AN INTERVIEW WITH ARTIST FATIMA ZAHRA HASSAN from Scripts ‘N’ Scribes

 May 15, 2018
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Night of Union – Before & After

Miniature painting is widely recognized for its highly decorative and graphical images. They are some of the most fascinating pieces of art to look at, given the format and their level of intricate detail. Like Islamic calligraphy and illumination, it is a form of traditional Islamic art and is considered to be one of the most developed forms of Islamic painting. Originally, these small paintings were part of a manuscript, used as a front piece or an illustration for a text. Often made for and owned by rulers and wealthy patrons as illustrated manuscripts, these traditional works depicted lives of kings, scenes from battles, leisurely pursuits of rulers, or inspired by poems, such as the famous work of Persian poet Ferdousi, the Shahnameh.

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More: https://www.scriptsnscribes.com/blogs/2018/5/15/mysticism-in-miniature-art-an-interview-with-artist-fatima-zahra-hassan

Jainism in the early 19th Century: Drawings from the Mackenzie Collection by Jennifer Howes, Independent Art Historian from The British Library Blog

The British Library holds over a thousand Jain manuscripts, most of which were collected in the 19thCentury, by Indologists and East India Company officials. In a recent blog, Pasquale Manzo, the British Library’s Sanskrit curator, gives an overview of these manuscripts, and news that 33 of them have been digitised.

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One of the collectors mentioned in this previous blog is Colin Mackenzie, the first Surveyor General of India. There are 21 Jain manuscripts, 18 of which are palm leaf manuscripts from Karnataka’s Digambara tradition, in the British Library’s Mackenzie Collection.

More: http://blogs.bl.uk/asian-and-african/2016/07/jainism-in-the-early-19th-century.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+asian-and-african+%28Asia+and+Africa%29

 

The Sixteen Sacred Lands of Buddhism, San San May, Curator for Burmese, British Library

Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism, was brought up to become a king, but he left his life of great comfort after encountering the ‘four signs’: an old man, a sick man, a corpse, and an ascetic. After six years of hardship, working to find the right spiritual path, he attained his ‘Great Enlightenment’, and became the Buddha. During the following forty-five years of his mission until he passed into Mahaparinirvana (the state of reaching the end of suffering) at the age of eighty, the Buddha walked widely throughout the northern districts of India, delivering his teachings to thebhikkhus (Buddhist monks) and laity in the places that he visited. The sixteen lands where he spent time during his long ministry can be found illustrated in many Burmese Buddhist cosmology manuscripts.

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Shown below is a depiction of the sixteen sacred lands in a Burmese folding-book paper manuscript. The Buddha is seated in Bhumisparsa mudra (earth-touching posture) on a throne under the Bodhi tree at the centre. Around him are depicted the sixteen lands, with indications of the distances between the centre and each of these regions, varying from one day to two months of travel. The sixteen lands are labelled (clockwise from the top) Mithila, Sankassa, Jetuttara, Takkasila, Savatti, Kosambi, Kalinga, Mudu, Koliya, Kapilavastu, Campa, Varanasi, Rajagaha, Vesali, Pataliputta, and Pava.

More: http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/asian-and-african/2016/07/the-sixteen-sacred-lands-of-buddhism.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+asian-and-african+%28Asia+and+Africa%29

Destination Bangladesh: art world decamps to third Dhaka Art Summit

Four-day event is billed as “the world’s largest non-commercial platform for South Asian art” by GARETH HARRIS  |  4 February 2016 – The Art NewsPaper

A key art-historical exhibition throwing new light on historic post-war works by South Asian artists forms part of the third Dhaka Art Summit in Bangladesh, which opens tomorrow (5-8 February). The show, entitled Rewind, features 12 artists including the late Bangladeshi practitioner Rashid Choudhury and Indian-born Monika Correa. The Indian art collector Amrita Jhaveri is sponsoring the exhibition, which is part of a programme encompassing solo art projects, group shows, panel discussions, and workshops.

More: http://theartnewspaper.com/news/news/destination-bangladesh-art-world-decamps-to-third-dhaka-art-summit/

PHOTO ESSAYS Photojournalist Steve McCurry’s Romanticised Visions of India by Carey Dunne in Hyperallergic

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American Magnum photographer Steve McCurry, best known for his 1984 photograph of an Afghan refugee with piercing green eyes (Sharbat Gula), is one of the most celebrated photojournalists of our time. His career started in 1978, after the work of Margaret Bourke-White and Henri Cartier-Bresson inspired him to take his first visit to India. This trip, on which McCurry used up 250 rolls of Kodachrome, would be the first of his more than 80 visits to the country.

More: http://hyperallergic.com/268014/photojournalist-steve-mccurrys-romanticized-visions-of-india/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Moving%20Forwards%20and%20Backwards%20in%20Time%20with%20The%20Shining&utm_content=Moving%20Forwards%20and%20Backwards%20in%20Time%20with%20The%20Shining+CID_2179cc68e832e5b66225a797d4ec6594&utm_source=HyperallergicNewsletter&utm_term=Photojournalist%20Steve%20McCurrys%20Romanticized%20Visions%20of%20India

British Library loans to Sultans of Deccan exhibition in New York

A superlative exhibition Sultans of Deccan India opened at the Metropolitan Museum in New York in April with an important accompanying catalogue (Haidar and Sardar 2015).  The arts of the Deccan (upland peninsular India) are among the rarest survivals from Muslim India and the exhibition concentrated on its greatest period, namely 1500-1700, so that the quality of the exhibits was uniformly high.  The three major sultanates emerged from the earlier Bahmanid kingdom around 1490 and survived until conquered by the Mughals in the 17th century, when most of their paintings and manuscripts seem to have perished. The British Library has an outstanding collection of this rare material and several of the key pieces from it were lent to the exhibition. – See more at: http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/asian-and-african/2015/06/british-library-loans-to-sultans-of-deccan-exhibition-in-new-york.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+asian-and-african+%28Asia+and+Africa%29#sthash.yt7hZN02.dpuf