Published: October 4, 2011
Organized to complement the Yale Center for British Art’s fall exhibition on Johan Zoffany, who spent six productive years in India, “Adapting the Eye: An Archive of the British in India, 1770‱830,” on view from October 11 to December 31, will explore the complex and multifaceted networks of British and Indian professional and amateur artists, patrons and scholars in British India in the later Eighteenth and early Nineteenth Centuries, and their drive to create and organize knowledge for both aesthetic and political purposes.
Selected from the center’s holdings and augmented with loans from Tate Britain, the British Library, and the Yale University Art Gallery, the exhibition will include a diverse range of objects from both high art and popular culture †many of which are being exhibited for the first time †including albums, scrapbooks, prints, paintings, miniatures and sculpture, demonstrating how collecting practices and artistic patronage in India at this period constituted a complex intersection of culture and power.
The starting point and central focus of the exhibition is a little-known archive in the center’s collection assembled by Charles Warre Malet, the East India Company’s resident in Poona between 1785 and 1798, and the British artist James Wales.
A painting commemorating the treaty between the British and the Maratha rulers was never completed by Wales, who died in India in 1795. However, after Malet returned to Britain in 1798 he commissioned the artist Thomas Daniell to complete it. “Adapting the Eye” is the first occasion that the painting, now in the collection of Tate Britain, has been displayed alongside the preparatory studies, which are preserved in Malet’s archive. The exhibition also features an impression of the 1807 print engraved by Charles Turner, on loan from the British Library.
The center’s archive, which includes more than 100 works on paper by British and Indian artists, as well as manuscript materials, depicts landscapes, architectural sites, flora and fauna, scenes from everyday life and diplomatic ceremonial events. By juxtaposing works by these Indian artists alongside their British counterparts, “Adapting the Eye” will provide a window into central India at a critical historical moment.
The Yale Center for British Art is at 1080 Chapel Street. For information, 203-432-2800 or www.britishart.yale.edu .
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