On Saturday, May 31, 1997, the Philadelphia Museum of Art dedicated the William P. Wood Gallery in the section of the Museum devoted to the art of India. Mr. Wood, who served the Museum in many capacities from the 1950s until his death in 1996, was also a collector of Indian art and bequeathed a distinguished group of Indian paintings to the collections. The Wood Gallery (#227) will house rotating exhibitions of later Indian art (from the 16th through 20th centuries), particularly painting and folk art. From June 1 through November 30, 1997, an inaugural installation will celebrate Mr. Wood's life and legacy by presenting paintings and objects given to the Museum by him or by others in appreciation of him.
Mr. Wood was raised in Gladwyne, and began collecting art while still a student at Harvard. After graduating from Harvard Law School, he returned to Philadelphia and joined the law firm of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, and commenced a life of public service. He was elected a member of the Museum's board of governors in 1962, and served as its volunteer president from 1976 to 1980. A collector of American as well as Indian art, he served on the advisory committees of those curatorial departments, as well as on the Investment, Planned Giving, Development and Budget Committees, and as chairman of the Executive Committee from 1980 until his death. He was a generous contributor to the Museum, supporting numerous exhibitions and special projects, and during the recent capital campaign he established the William P. Wood Endowment for the Department of Indian Art in honor of the late Dr. Stella Kramrisch, the Museum's esteemed Curator of Indian Art from 1954 to 1972 (and Curator Emeritus until her death in 1993). To date, Mr. Wood's friends and family have contributed over $250,000 to the endowment in his memory. Mr. Wood was also a trustee and vice-president of the Fairmount Park Art Association, and president of the La Napoule Art Foundation, which provides artists' residencies in the south of France.
The twenty paintings installed by Darielle Mason, the Museum's newly appointed Curator of Indian Art, to inaugurate the Wood Gallery highlight the exquisite craftsmanship and diversity of style and subject matter characteristic of India's pictorial traditions. The works, dating from the 16th through 19th centuries, were originally elements of larger manuscripts or loosely bound albums. Illustrated are scenes from India's great religious epics, poetic love literature and historical events, as well as portraits and detailed depictions of court life. The paintings also display the extraordinary variety of the Indian painter's production, including the lively observation of the Mughals, the bold colors and powerful compositions of Rajasthan, the potent abstraction of southern devotional images, and the delicate idealism of paintings from the northern Panjab hills.
The Wood Gallery dedication will commence the Museum's summer-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of Indian independence. Featured will be the special exhibition of photography, India: A Celebration of Independence, 1947-1997, on view from July 6 through August 31, 1997; three refurbished and reinstalled galleries of Indian sculpture, opening on Saturday, July 5; a new Gallery of Himalayan Art, opening on Saturday, July 5; a series of films by famed Indian director Satyajit Ray, shown most Sundays in July and August; a sitar performance by Kartik Seshadri on July 13; "Namaste India," a special Wednesday Night at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, from 5:00 to 8:45 on July 30; "Celebrate India!," a program for families, on Sunday, August 3; and a performance of classical Indian dance presented by Indrani on Indian Independence Day, Friday, August 15.