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Modernity, art and national identity in colonial India 1850–1922


Lecture by Partha Mitter

What was the impact of British rule on the transformation of Indian art in the 19th century? The global impact of colonial empires was not confined to the transmission of Western technology and nationalism to the Third World. Western naturalism has had an equally powerful, though ambivalent, effect on artistic taste. At the end of the 19th century the academic history painter Ravi Varma had become a national hero in India for his imagining of India’s past. Yet within a year of his death he was held in contempt for his brand of Victorian painting. The talk will seek to address these issues as it traces the history of nationalist art in India.  

Scholar, professor and renowned art historian Partha Mitter is emeritus professor of art history at University of Sussex, England, a member of Wolfson College, Oxford University, and past fellow of Clare Hall, Cambridge University. He is the author of Much Maligned Monsters: History of European Reactions to Indian Art (Clarendon Press 1977), Art and Nationalism in Colonial India 1850–1922 (Cambridge University Press 1994), Occidental Orientations (Cambridge University Press 1994), Indian Art (Oxford University Press 2002) and The Triumph of Modernism: India’s Artists and the Avant-Garde 1922–1947 (Reaktion Books and Chicago University Press 2007).

In association with the Power Institute, University of Sydney

Sunday 18 March 2012, 2.00pm


Duration 1 hour
Location: Centenary Auditorium

Related exhibition: Mother India


Sunday 18 March 2pm – 3pm