Lines of Thought: Indian Drawings from the Dean Walker Collection On View through November 26, 2006 in the Wood Gallery (Gallery 227)
The late Dean Walker (1948–2005), who served for fifteen years as the Museum’s Henry P. McIlhenny Senior Curator of European Decorative Arts and Sculpture, possessed a reputation for vigorous intellect, sensitive connoisseurship, and first-rate scholarship, in particular for his deep knowledge of seventeenth-century French sculpture. His publications were numerous and diverse, and his acquisitions on behalf of the Museum were distinguished by their aptness and quality. Less well-known was the delight Dr. Walker took in his personal collection, scrupulously focused outside his own professional museum field, which reflected his sophistication and breadth of interests. In addition to American ceramics and European prints and drawings, he assembled over several decades a fine group of works on paper from northern India, most produced between the 17th and 19th centuries, which he bequeathed to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In a special tribute to Dr. Walker, the Museum will present Lines of Thought: Indian Drawings from the Dean Walker Collection, an exhibition of over 20 drawings and some related three-dimensional objects, including a lacquer book cover and a metal ritual spoon, from his collection.
Throughout his career, Dr. Walker was fascinated by the artistic process. The drawings he owned demonstrate the various technical stages of creating “miniature” paintings in a range of Indian workshops. Among the highlights of this exhibition are two partially finished paintings: “Young Maharana Karan Singh of Bikaner,” a delicate Rajasthani portrait dating from the mid-17th century, and “Fruit and Leaf of a Fig Tree,” a late-18th-century botanical study painted in Calcutta for a British patron.
"Dean Walker's very generous bequest reflects his keen appreciation for artistic excellence and the rare and adventurous spirit that informed his curatorial mind," said Anne d'Harnoncourt, Director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. "We are delighted to present this lively and varied exhibition of Indian drawings in tribute to the excellence of his eye and in deep appreciation for the gift of his extraordinary dedication to the Museum."
Before his tenure in Philadelphia, Dr. Walker spent a decade at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where he served as curator at the Ackland Museum of Art. Among his many responsibilities was building and installing that institution’s growing collection of Asian, particularly Indian, art. In that role he gained an abiding love of the arts of the Subcontinent. After moving to Philadelphia to head the Museum’s Department of European Decorative Arts and Sculpture, he continued his interests by gradually building for himself a collection of Indian works on paper, particularly sketches and preparatory drawings through which he could explore and live with immediate evidence of the artistic process.
“Dean’s gift allows Museum visitors a glimpse into the minds of the Indian artists who made the completed paintings,” Darielle Mason, the Stella Kramrisch Curator of Indian and Himalayan Art, said, “and it expresses Dean’s own passion to amplify and understand the artistic process—to hear the artists’ voices.”
About the Collection of Indian and Himalayan Art
The Philadelphia Museum of Art contains one of the finest collections of South Asian art in the United States, including the spectacular Pillared Temple Hall (16th century) from Southern India, paintings and sculptures from India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan, and Tibet; an important group of textiles; and a variety of decorative arts. Works from the Indian and Himalayan Art Collections are displayed in a series of galleries (224, 227, 229–232) located on the second floor. The William P. Wood Gallery houses changing collection exhibitions primarily showcasing 16th- through 20th-century Indian art. Gallery 232 is devoted to works from the Himalayan region, including Buddhist paintings, metal images, and ritual implements.