Pahari Masters Court Painters of Northern India

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Item Code: IHF021
Author: B.N. Goswamy, Eberhard Fischer
Publisher: Niyogi Books
Language: English
Edition: 2009
ISBN: 9788189738464
Pages: 391 (Illustrated Throughout In Full Color)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 11.8” X 9.3”
Weight 2.30 kg
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Book Description

From the Jacket

Pahari painting - ‘Painting from the Hills’, often subsumed under the broad head, Rajput Painting - has long been acknowledged as one of the great achievements of India in the realm of art. For too long, however, the Pahari painter, the maker of these images, has continued to be seen as belonging to an indeterminate, anonymous group of craftsmen who simply plied predetermined brushes. The present work is aimed at challenging that notion, for it presents the painter as thinking man, faced with, and capable of, exercising choices. It was time that the ‘long winter of neglect’ in which he had been left by history came to an end.

The authors draw attention here to fourteen Pahari Masters, whose work spans a period of three hundred years. The paintings come from as many as twenty different museums and private collections, the effort being to select such work as illumine each master’s range as also the processes of thought from which his art is likely to have sprung. Carefully, the essay on each master presents the evidence available on him, the known extent of his work, and an analysis of his style.

Pahari Masters is a pioneering work of great significance. When first published in German, it was widely acclaimed as ‘a great work’, and has come since to occupy the status of a classic, laying down the lines along which the future of studies in Indian painting is likely to proceed.

About the Author

BN Goswamy, distinguished art historian, is Professor Emeritus of Art History at the Panjab University, Chandigarh. A leading authority on Indian art, his work covers a wide range and is regarded, especially in the area of Pahari painting, as having influenced much thinking. He is the recipient of many honours, including the Jawaharlal Nehru Fellowship, the Rietberg Award for outstanding Research in Art History, the Padma Shri (1998) and the Padma Bhushan (2008) from the President of India.

Prof. Goswamy has written extensively. Among his publications are: Pahari Painting: The Family as the Basis of Style (Marg, Bombay, 1968); Essence of India Art (San Francisco, 1986); Wonders of a Golden Age (with E. Fischer, Zurich, 1987); Pahari Masters: Court Painters of Northern India (with E. Fischer; Zurich, 1992); Indian Costumes in the Collection of the Calico Museum of Textiles (Ahmedabad, 1993); Nainsukh of Guler: A great Indian Painter from a small Hill State (Zurich, 1997); Painted Visions (New Delhi, 1999); Piety and Splendour: Sikh Heritage in Art (New Delhi, 2000); Domains of Wonder (with Caron Smith; San Diego, 2005), and I see No Stranger: Early Sikh Art and Devotion (with Caron Smith; New York, 2006).

As a guest curator, Professor Goswamy has been responsible for major exhibitions of Indian art in Paris, San Francisco, Zurich, San Diego, and New York. As Visiting Professor, he has taught at some of the most prestigious Universities in the U.S. and Europe.

Eberhard Fischer is a renowned art historian and cultural anthropologist. Till recently he was the Director of the Museum Rietberg, Zurich. Shifting attention from his early interest in African Art to the art and culture of India, Dr. Fischer became deeply involved first in the craft traditions of India, especially its textiles, and then in mainstream Indian art. Having worked in different regions of India, from Gujarat to Orissa, and from Himachal Pradesh to Kerala, he has written extensively. He has also been responsible for major exhibitions of art and craft, many of them in Switzerland, and some outside. Among his most authoritative works are: The Patola of Gujarat (with Alfred Buehler; 1979); Wonders of a Golden Age (with BN Goswamy; 1987); Pahari Masters: Court Painters of Northern India (with BN Goswamy; 1992); Murals for Goddesses and Gods (with Dinanath Pathy; 1996); The Temple of Devi Kothi (with V.C. Ohri and others; 2002); Amorous Delight: The Amarushataka Palm-Leaf Manuscript (with Dinanath Pathy; 2006). His return to African art is marked by his most recent and widely acclaimed publication: Guro: Masks, Performances and Master Carvers in lvory coast (2008).


An art historian who tries, with the help of little slivers of fact, to make his way through the hidden world of the Indian painters of the past is a little like an Abhisarika heroine who, with passion in her heart, moves to-ward the place of her rendezvous through a dark and rainy night, full of hazards and uncertainties, her way lit only by the occasional flash of lightning appearing in the sky. Hard facts are singularly few; documents relating to painters, even to paintings, are scarce, and it requires single-mindedness of purpose, as much as patience, to extract from them what one can: to pick up every nuance that lies hidden in them.

In the course of this study we have concerned ourselves with gathering as many facts as we could locate, but we present only those which would help bring the painter of the past into sharp focus, relegating to the background considerations and facts that relate to patrons, states, and centres of art activity. The importance of the latter is not lost upon us, nor are we unaware of the fact that there was a context in which these paintings were produced. But we have been driven by the fact that while Pahari painting has for many years now been acknowledged as one of the great achievements of man in the world of art, the Pahari painter, the maker of these images, has not received his legitimate share of attention. For too long, we believe, he has been seen as belonging to an indeterminate, anonymous group of craftsmen who simply plied predetermined brushes. We see him as a thinking man, presented with and capable of exercising choices. The painter, therefore, stands in the forefront of our study. We think it is time that the long winter of neglect, of which J.C. French spoke, must for the Pahari painter come to an end.

What is presented in these pages is neither a history of Pahari painting nor yet another study on the art of the northern hill-states. The exhibition and the catalogue concern themselves with Pahari Masters with a clear intent. Fourteen masters, or groups very close to them, active over a period of nearly three hundred years, are presented here. In presenting these painters, we have picked works that appeared to us to be of significance, and have gathered them from as many as twenty museums and private collections from all over the world. Those who know Pahari painting we will see many familiar works, but also undoubtedly miss several that are better known. However, we were guided by the thought of putting together material, as tersely as possible, that would light up the range of the work of each master, and the process of thinking which we believe went of inside him. At the same time we do not present here the work of all painters that we have some information on. Thus, if we do not speak, for instance, of the painter Bhagwan of Kulu, whose work is easily identifiable and available, or of Golu of Nurpur, Fauju of Chamba, Ghathuram of Guler, Deviditta of Basohli/Patiala and Muhammadi of Mandi, it is because we do not regard their work as worthy of ranking with that of the masters whom we focus on here.

Many years of work have gone into the making of this study. A beginning was made with BNG’s researches in the sixties, presented in the journal "Marg" in 1968: "Pahari Painting - The Family as the Basis of Style". A great deal of other material was collected over the years since; a great deal was also left aside when it was found not to have bearing on the object we had in mind. But the aim and direction of work has remained steadily the same. We are well aware that there will be many reservations about the manner in which we have endeavoured to reconstruct the work of these master painters. Facts are bound to be disputed, our views shall be challenged, and attributions questioned. This is as it should be. Such reactions are to be anticipated, even welcomed. But all we would like to say is that nothing presented here is without careful thought, a judicious weighing of evidence, or without awareness of what other scholars active in this field have held. Of one thing we are certain: whatever view is taken of the material presented in this study, the future of studies in Indian painting lies along the lines charted out here.

Our work is indebted in many ways to the profound labours of other scholars in the field, principally to those of W.G. Archer, Karl Khandalavala, and M.S. Randhawa. This will be clear from the frequency and the respect with which we advert to them in the following pages. A study like this would also not have been possible but for the kindness which the owners of the bahi-registers at centres of pilgrimage, on which we draw so heavily, extended to BNG in the course of his researches. Over several years, we have benefited from discussions with many colleagues, and neither this exhibition nor the catalogue could have been possible without the friendly help we received from generous and thoughtful friends all over the world. it is a special pleasure to thank, in India, the Government of Himachal Pradesh which, together with the department of Culture of the Government of India, enabled us to turn what at one time appeared to be a dream into a reality. The project received extraordinary support, from the very beginning, from friends inn Himachal Pradesh like Shri M.K. Kaw and his colleagues, Shri S.N. Joshi, Smt. Manisha Shridhar, Dr. V.C. Ohri, and Shri C.R. B. Lalit. There were so many others, friends and colleagues, who gave generously of their time to us: Dr. V.C. Thakur, Shri H.L. Garg, Shri O.C. Handa, Shri Nandesh Kumar, Shri S.M. Sethi, and Shri Vijay Sharma. In Delhi, Shri M. Varadarajan, Shri Manmohan Singh, Shri R.C. Tripathi, Dr. M.C. Joshi, and Dr. Jyotindra Jain lent support to this project in their own ways and at different stages. Shri Ashok Pradhan, Shri Ved Marwah, Shri V.N. Singh, Shri M. Y. Taing, Smt. S. Paul and Smt. Punam Kapur made it possible, through their kindness, for paintings to be consulted and obtained on loan for the exhibition.

We also owe much gratitude to the ambassadors of our two countries, H.E. Mr. M.K. Mangalamurti in Bern and Mr. Jean-Pierre Zehnder in New Delhi, who showed more than usual interest in a project of this nature and dimension. Their involvement was personal, as was that of Dr. Peter. Schweizer in Delhi and Shri O.P. Shahria in Bern. We are equally grateful to the warm and friendly help we have always received from H.E. Dr. Konrad Seitz, the German Ambassador in New Delhi.

This exhibition would not have been possible, we are aware, without the active support of so many museums and private collectors. Among the latter, we are especially indebted to the Baron and Barones John Bachofen von Echt (London), Dr. Alvin O. Bellak (Philadelphia), Hashem Khosrovani (Geneva), Dr. Horst Metzger (Grun-stadt), and Dr. Franz-Joseph Vollmer (Freiburg im Breisgau).

The following museums most generously gave us works on loan, and we owe them much gratitude: in India, the Himachal Pradesh State Museum Simla, the Bhuri Singh Museum Chamba, the Government Museum and Art Gallery Chandigarh, the Dogra Art Gallery Jammu (J.&K.); in the United States, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, the Fogg Art Museum in Cambridge (Mass.), the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Los Angeles), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), and the Seattle Art Museum (Seattle); in Europe, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Museum fur Indische Kunst in Berlin.

If the Museum Rietberg Zurich was able to contribute substantially to this exhibition with its own paintings, it was due only to the magnanimity and help of donors: Dr. Alice Boner who, along with her sister Dr. Georgette Boner, gifted to the Museum a remarkably rich collection of paintings, and Balthasar Reinhart who, in the course of many years, has made it possible for the Museum to acquire specific and much desired objects. It is a special pleasure to acknowledge here the kindness of these benefactors of the Rietberg Museum.

Several friends have contributed in different ways to the realization of this project. We are especially beholden to our colleagues in other museums: Dr. Vishakha Desai (Boston), Dr. Francis Hutchins (Brookline), Michael Knight (Seattle), Steven Kossak (New York), Dr. Martin Lerner (New York), Dr. Amina Okada (Paris), Dr. Pratapaditya Pal (Los Angeles), Dr. Debbie Swallow (London), Dr. Mahrukh Tarapor (New York), Prof. S.C. Welch (Harvard), and Dr. Marianne Yaldiz (Berlin).

We are keenly conscious of the fact that we would not have been able to turn what we have termed a dream into a reality had it not been for the unstinting support and help that we received from our colleagues and friends at the Rietberg Museum. Andrea Isler brought to what turned out to be very demanding work admirable dedication and sensitivity: the exhibition and the catalogue own much to her. Our warm thanks also go to Jacqueline Isler-Schwab for her valuable suggestions and editorial improvements. Brigitte Mammerer who, with great skill, did all the photography in Indian museums for this catalogue, and Isabelle Wettstein, who worked tirelessly on the design of the exhibition and this book, deserve our special thanks. The catalogue evidently owes itself to the very special efforts put in by the designer, Fred Bauer, a friend of the museum for many years.

From Karuna and Barbara we received all that we could have wished for, and more: support, sensitivity, patience, and enthusiasm. Of this we are deeply sensible.

B.N. Goswamy
Eberhard Fischer

P.S. In this English edition of the catalogue, which appears some time after the German edition of 1990, it has been possible to incorporate such minor changes and corrections as were found necessary.


Preface 5
The Pahari Painter 7
The Master of the Early Devi Mahatmya Series 15
The Master of the Early Rasamanjari Series 29
Devidasa of Nurpur 59
The Master(s) of the Bahu "Shangri"-Ramayana Series 75
The Master at the Court of Mankot 95
The Master at the Court of Raja Chhattar Singh of Chamba 127
Laharu of Chamba 149
Mahesh of Chamba 165
The Master at the Court of Mandi 189
Pandit Seu of Guler 211
Manaku of Guler 239
Nainsukh of Guler 267
Bibliography 388
List of Figures 391


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