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Framings of a National Tradition

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Abstract:

Contemporary miniatures from Pakistan are a well-known example of a local art movement gaining worldwide recognition. This article aims to historicise the contemporary reinvention of ‘traditional’ Indian miniature painting by postmodern artists by tracing its genealogy from the mid-twentieth century at the Art School in Lahore. Through an examination of the service records of hereditary court painters at the craft-oriented Mayo School of Arts in the 1950s, and of the transition into National College of Arts with an emphasis on fine arts, it explores the subalternisation of miniature painting in the era of postcolonial modernism. Informed by postcolonial theory, the article critically engages with the ideas of traditional art, craft, heritage and identity, to explore their multiple frames of articulation through traditional painting, vacillating from its uncritical celebration as a repository of Mughal traditions to its dismissal as a constrained act devoid of personal expression. It concludes by offering an alternative reading of the communicative act in Indian painting that is integral to a historically nuanced understanding of traditional practice and its contemporary reinvention.

Keywords: A K Coomaraswamy; Abdur Rehman Chughtai; Abindranath Tagore; E B Havell; Haji Muhammad Sharif; Mayo School of Art; Pakistani art history; Shazia Sikander; South Asian modernism; miniature painting

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09528822.2011.608968

Publication date: 2011-09-01

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