From The Mountaintops

Sahar Khan | November 27, 2018 | Feature Features

A group of Hindu artworks from India's Pahari painting tradition go on view at The Met.
“Krishna as a Child Stealing Butter” (1780, opaque watercolor and gold on paper), folio from the kingdom of Kangra or Guler

The Pahari tradition of painting was born in the northern foothills of India, when in the 17th and 18th centuries, in an effort to evoke and appease the Hindu gods they worshipped, maharajas commissioned delicately rendered, creatively groundbreaking devotional paintings. Largely overshadowed by their Mogul and Rajput counterparts, the paintings of this era now get their much-deserved due in Seeing the Divine: Pahari Painting of North India at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Given their distance from the Indian plains, where the economically and artistically robust Mogul and Rajput empires sprawled, small royal courts nestled in the Himalayan valleys “produced some of the best painting of this period,” says Kurt Behrendt, associate curator at the department of Asian art, who curated Seeing the Divine. “[The exhibit’s] concept thinks about how often, because of their isolation, new and innovative things happened up in the hills [as well as] new ways of representing Krishna, Rama, Durga and so on.” Behrendt points out this was partly because small courts at the time could commission a respected artist and his workshop to produce high-quality artworks without sacrificing excessive resources.


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