Shivani Sud

Award Information

2018 IDRF Program

Art History/ArchitectureUniversity of California / Berkeley

Rajput Painting and its Transcultural Histories: The Jaipur School of Painting, 1866-1916

Described in contemporaneous travel accounts as "the Paris of the East," the western Indian city of Jaipur became the locus of intense artistic experimentation for both colonial and indigenous actors in the 19th century. Yet, in 1829, the British Orientalist James Tod exalted the princely kingdoms of western India for their custodianship of medieval feudal cultural values (Tod 1829). Echoing Tod, the eminent nationalist art ideologue Ananda Coomaraswamy valorized Rajput painting—an art form that emerged in the 16th-century princely kingdoms of Rajasthan—as a provincial artistic practice that upheld "traditional" Indic values and aesthetic ideals derived from 5th-century art (Coomaraswamy 1916). Despite the existence of a wide body of material that suggests otherwise, Rajput painting continues to be viewed as a purportedly conservative, traditional, and slow-changing art form that is exemplary of "authentic" Hindu visual practices. In contrast, drawing on a range of previously unexamined paintings housed in archives, private collections, and museums in India and Europe, my dissertation aims to resituate Rajput painting at the intersections of interregional, pan-Indian, and global networks of which the Jaipur artists were a part. Having identified my primary archives and established initial contact during my preliminary fieldwork, I hope to use the SSRC Fellowship to access archival materials and to closely analyze paintings and photographs produced in the colonial School of Arts, royal painting and photo workshops, popular prints sold in the bazaars of the city, and photographs produced by local studios in Jaipur. Furthermore, by attending to the intersections between artistic practices and urban formations, I aim to examine how 19th-century Jaipur served as a crucible in which new artistic practices, new social roles, and new conceptions of urban spaces combined to shape the visual vocabularies of a painting genre that is still seen as quintessentially traditional.