|Abstract:||As part of the struggle to achieve Indian Independence and to rewrite Orientalist narratives of history, Indian art scholars in the early decades of the 20th century authored a Nationalist art history that found a voice first in the pages of the art history journal, Rupam, and, in the late 1940s, promotion in the National Museum of India. This Nationalist art history was forged out of criticism of earlier art historical narratives of Indian art created by Orientalist scholars around the turn of the century, and was tested in and by the mission, goals, and activities of the National Museum of India. As such, the National Museum became an arena for playing out and examining the separation that had been built, intellectually and philosophically, between India and Britain in the field of art history. This, I contest, was one way that India dealt with its complicated history with a ruling Other as it forged its new independent identity. As the confrontation with the Other was played out in the realm of interpretation and appreciation of Indian art, the museum revealed certain successes and limitations of the rewritten, re-appropriated art history. In my paper I discuss the Nationalist art history as an intellectual separation from colonial rule and the colonial Other, and then discuss the successes and limitations of the promotion of this art history in the institution of the National Museum. |
The scholars I cite in my thesis in developing the British scholarship at the turn of the century considered themselves “Orientalists” and had training in Indian history and art history. It is for this reason that I, like Tapati Guha-Thakurta in her work, refer to them as such. The authors who contributed to Rupam, the art journal upon which I base my argument for the development of the Nationalist art history, are not as individuals necessarily Indian Nationalists. The scholarship in the journal as a whole, however, is – or is sympathetic and supportive of the Nationalist movement – and I use the term “Nationalist” broadly to indicate its anticolonial viewpoint.