Volume 65 Number 3, March 2014
A Passionate Eye: Textiles, Paintings and Sculptures from the Bharany Collections
|Specifications:||156 pages, 160 illustrations|
|Dimensions:||305 x 241 mm|
Rarely in the history of collecting art in India has a father-son duo remained involved for as long as the Bharanys of Amritsar and Delhi. This book tells the remarkable tale of the aesthetic adventure of two generations of Bharanys – Radha Krishna and his son Chhotelal, spanning over a century.
It begins with an essay by Pratapaditya Pal placing the role of the Bharanys in the wider context of collecting in this field. This is followed by Chhote Bharany’s personal recollections of learning the trade from his father, and his interactions with many of the leading scholars, experts, famous writers, museum directors and connoisseurs of the 20th century. Giles Tillotson explores Chhote Bharany’s aesthetic, emotional and spiritual response to art in the intellectual context of his time. In Part Two, experts on textiles and other arts each highlight one aspect of the collections, together covering items from as far afield as Himachal Pradesh, Kashmir, Bengal, Punjab, Kerala and Rajasthan.
Showcasing the Bharanys’ personal collection and other objects donated to or purchased by museums, this book will be an eye-opener to those intrigued by how works of art are brought to light, how great collections are put together, and how such works are appreciated and understood.
Giles Tillotson was formerly Reader in History of Art at SOAS (University of London). He is currently Consultant Director (Research, Publications & Exhibitions) at the City Palace in Jaipur. He edited two earlier Marg volumes, Stones in the Sand: The Architecture of Rajasthan (2001) and James Tod’s Rajasthan (2007).
PART ONE: THE COLLECTORS
A Tale of Two Bharanys and Collecting Art in British India
Form and the Divine: The Shaping of Chhote Bharany’s Vision
PART TWO: THE COLLECTIONS
Notes on Six Pahari Paintings
Sculptures from Kerala: Form and Performance
Mallica Kumbera Landrus
Nakshi Kantha from Bengal
Phulkari and Bagh from Punjab
Bharany Bhaav: The Dilemma of Modernism
The writer recalls the long friendship with Chhotelal Bharany who inherited his love for the arts from his father Radha Krishna. In the 1960s when art collectors were offering their objects to the nation's new museum, it was not just a business deal but the anguish of a collector who loved his objects and was torn between offering them to the nation's new museum and still not wanting to part with them. She raises some of the issues that confront art purchase committees in the matter of acquisition of art objects by national institutes through national regulations and wonders what would have happened to these objects dismembered from their original context and reassembled in another had there been no art connoisseurs and no museums.
Chhotelal Bharany is a collector of rare distinction; his sensibility, broad tastes and profound knowledge combine to make his collections remarkable in quality and range. Well known as an art dealer he continues a business best known for jewellery but also paintings, textiles and woodcarvings. The business was the favoured reliable source for scholars and art administrators. In 1976, he donated many objects in memory of his father to the National Museum. The book tells the tale of the aesthetic adventure of two generations of Bharanys and showcases highlights from their private collection as well as those that are now more publicly accessible. It elaborates how works of art are brought to light, how great collections are put together and how they are appreciated.
This introductory essay by a distinguished art historian and curator who has worked with countless private and public collections of Asian art, places the role of the Bharany father-son duo in the wider context of art collecting. Pal's account of the leading collectors of Indian art in the first half of the 20th century surveys many eminent Indians and foreigners in the first half of the 20th century, many of whom he knew personally.
At the heart of this book are Chhotelal Bharany's memories of learning the trade from his father, Radha Krishna Bharany, and his interactions with many leading scholars, experts and connoisseurs of tthe 20th century. On familiar terms with famous writers and museum directors, he candidly sets ourt his views and impressions of them.
The article shows how some of Chhotelal Bharany's views about art, strongly held and articulated with passion and eloquence, connect him with a particular intellectual and artistic milieu which dominated the world of Indian art at a time before independence when writers, critics and collectors were coming to terms with the new discipline of art history and new styles of artistic expression. He sought inspiration from the writings of others, but his interest in the sacred dimension of art came from his innate religious sensibility.
Radha Krishna Bharany was a leading supplier of Indian paintings to museums and private collectors. His understanding and discussions with art lovers and historians had a profound influence on son Chhotelal. Both could classify schools of painting. Six paintings from their private collections are described here by the writer, himself a Pahari painter.
Temples in Kerala offer a living tradition of the subcontinent's ancient use of wood as a material for building. The focus is on a small selection of religious sculptures and relief panels including some polychrome sculptures associated with the performance arts such as Kathakali and Kutiyattam which have an originality that separates this form of visual art in Kerala from the rest of India. Together they reflect a layered complexity in collecting in that the group includes decorative objects which were used in the construction of sacred buildings as well as those created for sale to individuals. A number of them were created during the colonial period and may have been specifically made for sale to foreign visitors and collectors. Though lack of documentation limits the potential for research and interpretation the objects stand as testament to an individual's passion and sensibility.
The Bharany collection of Kashmir shawls is one of the most important in the country and outside. Years of living with art trained his eye to pick out the best in workmanship. The variety of pashmina shawls include kanis, rumals, dorukhas and moon shawls. Apart from shawls the collection includes fine examples of clothing made from shawl pieces. Some of the prized pieces and their context and techniques are described here.
The collection's framed ornamental quilts with the age-old domestic needlecraft of Bengal are discussed here in the wider context of phulkaris and folk embroideries of the Banjara, Kathi and Rabari communities. Inscribed kanthas which are a rarity are also in the collection. The imagery and stimuli which created these pieces and the recent revival of kanthas is analysed.
Chhotelal's collection of phulkaris is vast, with pieces dating from the late 19th to early 20th century, and represents every region of Punjab where the embroidery was practised. His passion for collecting textiles is reflected in the uniqueness and fine quality of the work. The sainchi pictorial phulkaris deserve special mention. The selection here was chosen to represent the vast variety of stitiches, motifs and designs.
Chhotelal positions himself on the threshold of modern and traditional world-views. The focus on bhaav or emotion in art may have little appeal to a scholar but according to Chhote Bharany, art has to be felt, it must inspire and evoke emotion. He is a rasik but also a successful businessman and collector. His collections have a wide range of art works and objects reflecting diverse moods and tastes.