Darshan and Disenchantment: Painting Worship in India, 1861-1947


ACLS Fellowship Program


Art History, Theory and Criticism


This project examines British and Indian paintings of Hindu temples and temple worshippers, focusing on works produced by Marianne North, Abanindranath Tagore, and M.V. Dhurandhar during the period between the founding of the Archaeological Survey of India in 1861 and the establishment of Indian independence in 1947. Taking a three-pronged approach that attends to architectural conservation and temple jurisprudence under the British Raj, European and Indian ideas about artistic modernity, and the Hindu practice of darshan as a vehicle for human-divine reciprocity, my study reveals overlapping and contrasting attitudes towards artistic modernity, historicism, and selfhood. As such, it expands upon Partha Mitter’s path-breaking scholarship on the European reception of Hindu art. It also draws upon Parul Dave Mukherji’s comparative approach to Indian aesthetics as a means of challenging the dichotomy between Western materialism and Indian transcendentalism that has characterized the study of Indian art since the early twentieth century.