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Arts of Bengal: Town, Temple, Mosque

March 13–September 19, 2010

The great cities and towns of Bengal (modern Bangladesh and parts of eastern India) have long functioned as artistic hubs, where professional painters, potters, weavers, and sculptors catered to diverse audiences, local and foreign alike. Under British colonial rule, artists in Calcutta (modern Kolkata), Dacca (Dhaka), Murshidabad, and Patna produced silver vessels adorned with scenes of rural life, silk saris brocaded with images of urban pleasures, and even colorful paintings of processions and detailed botanical studies intended for European patrons. Temples and mosques, often decorated with intricately molded terracotta bricks, also fostered artistic creativity. Some temples even provided venues for artists to sell souvenir paintings of deities as well as satirical scenes critiquing the dissipations of city life. Bengal's vibrant urban fabric and cultural traditions further enriched the careers of artist-intellectuals like Nandalal Bose (1882–1966), Jamini Roy (1887–1972), and Mukul Dey (1895–1989) as they sought to forge a modern aesthetic in the decades leading up to and following independence.

Created in conjunction with the exhibition Kantha: The Embroidered Quilts of Bengal from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz and the Stella Kramrisch Collections (Joan Spain Gallery, through July 2010) and Arts of Bengal: Wives, Mothers, Goddesses (Gallery 232, through August 2010), this exhibition explores the rich texture of art and life in Bengal's towns, temples, and mosques from the eighteenth to the mid-twentieth century.

Main Building


Yael Rice, Assistant Curator of Indian and Himalayan Art; Darielle Mason, The Stella Kramrisch Curator of Indian and Himalayan Art

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