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cosmic oceans

June 19, 2009

The painting of Rajasthan has sometimes been looked upon as a naive and provincial reflection of the masterpieces produced by the Mughals in Delhi. The British Museum exhibition Garden and Cosmos demonstrates that was never the case. Instead, it shows how the art of Jodhpur liberated itself from the formal strictures of Mughal painting, and over a century flowered into something unique and surprising – until, that is, Jodhpur came under the influence of the British in the mid-19th century, and this creative period of independence ground to a close.

The exhibition also shows how the patronage of each different ruler altered the Marwar court style. Under Man Singh’s father, Vijay Singh, and his grandfather, Bakhat Singh, the miniature ateliers of Jodhpur took the still and stately portrait style of Mughals and in different ways supercharged it with narrative vigour, energy, sensuality and colour. Then, during the rule of Man Singh, under the guidance of the Nath gurus, Marwari painting reached heights of Rothko-like abstraction and mystical strangeness that pre-empt many of the cubist, abstract expressionist and neo-plasticist experiments of 20th-century European and American art. Amid Mondrian or Howard Hodgkin-like fields of colour, esoteric ideas take wing in sublime forms of fabulous, dreamlike intensity. (read or view slideshow)

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