Media only: Brenda Kean Tabor: 202.357.4880 ext. 319
Barbara Kram: 202.357.4880 ext. 219
Public only: 202.357.2700
Changing Taste in 18th – 20th Century Indian Art

The Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery (1050 Independence Ave. S. W.) presents “Changing Taste: Indian Paintings of the 18th to the 20th Century” from Dec. 17 through July 15. The exhibition shows 20 recently acquired works in a survey of the diversity of Indian painting from the colonial period to the present. Accustomed as we are to the modern blurring of cultural borders caused by the invention of the Internet, satellite television, jet travel and the enormous growth in international trade, this exhibition serves as a reminder that, throughout history, native cultures have been shaped by foreign influences.

“The works on view here represent an extraordinary range of artistic responses to British colonialism, and also challenge our notions of cultural authenticity,” says Debra Diamond, the Sackler’s associate curator of South and Southeast Asian art.

A related exhibition, “India through the Lens: Photography 1840-1911,” on view at the Sackler Gallery from Dec. 3 through March 25, 2001, examines similar themes through the medium of the photograph.

“Changing Taste” presents a wide variety of artwork from traditional-style folk paintings that were made on imported paper, to a painting by the modern master Jagdish Swaminathan (1928-1994) that reinterprets motifs that traditionally adorn the walls of Indian village homes, translating them into the language of international abstraction. Highlights also include:

  • five delicately precise watercolors of local fauna, British conveyances and Indian militia produced by Indian artists of the Company School who adapted the aesthetic of court painting to the taste and interests of British patrons. The group includes a folio, titled “Six Recruits” by Ghulam Ali Khan (active early 19th-century) from the celebrated Fraser Album-a work that is considered one of the most powerful portraits painted on the subcontinent in any period
  • six aquatints by renowned British artists Thomas Daniell (1749-1840) and William Daniell (1769-1837)-their only series that was completed entirely in India-that record the emerging colonial metropolis of Calcutta with the muted tones and architectural precision of contemporary 18th-century European painting;
  • a vibrant, almost life-size portrait of a Rajput ruler from Mewar and an exquisite fragment by the celebrated artist Sahiba Ram (1740-1800) depicting the harem of the Jaipur maharaja that reveal an evolution of Rajput painting seemingly unaffected by the inroads of imperialism
  • two mid-19th-century portraits of a Maharaja and his Maharini, which illustrate how Indian patrons and artists, while continuing the tradition of royal display through portraiture, embraced the new sensibility of photography by meticulously reproducing studio portraits in the medium of paint.

The Freer Gallery of Art (12th Street and Independence Avenue S.W.) and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery (1050 Independence Ave. S.W.) together form the national museum of Asian art for the United States. The Freer also houses a major collection of late 19th and early 20th-century American art. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day except Christmas Day, Dec. 25, and admission is free. Public tours are offered daily. The galleries are located near the Smithsonian Metrorail station on the Blue and Orange lines. For more information, the public may call 202.357.2700 or TTY 202.357.1729, or visit the galleries’ Web site at

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