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Drawn from Courtly India: The Conley Harris and Howard Truelove Collection

December 6, 2015–March 27, 2016

Glimpse life inside the royal courts of northern India in this eye-opening exhibition of drawings.

This exhibition presents masterful drawings from the royal courts of northern India. Lovingly amassed by artist Conley Harris and architectural designer Howard Truelove, the collection features practice sketches, preparatory drawings, subtly modeled scenes, and lightly colored compositions created between the 1500s and 1800s. With images at different stages of completion, the collection allows for a fascinating look at Indian workshop practice. Although the majority of the drawings served as studies for paintings, they are accomplished works of art in their own right.

Included are striking portraits, vivid battle scenes, illustrations of popular religious stories, and explorations of love. Gentle yet robust lines convey the creativity of workshop-trained artists with compelling immediacy—from the delicate shading of a ruler's facial hair to the strong contours of a god's upstretched arm in battle. Not only do these drawings highlight the artists' expert handling of medium, they illuminate how workshops labored in artistic collaboration and transmitted skills from one generation to the next.

Drawings reveal what paintings conceal, and the works in this exhibition offer new ways of looking and thinking about the art of Indian drawing. By presenting works at distinct moments during the creative process, Drawn from Courtly India showcases how the Indian draftsman transformed a blank sheet of paper into a masterful work of art.

About Collectors Conley Harris and Howard Truelove

Several trips to India inspired painter Conley Harris to collect Rajasthani, Pahari, and Mughal drawings and preparatory studies. His partner, architectural designer W. Howard Truelove (1946–2012), shared Harris's fascination with line and passion for collecting. Over the years they built a superb collection of Indian drawings, seen in this exhibition for the first time. The Harris-Truelove Collection addresses an engrossing aspect of South Asia's art production and forms an extraordinary synergy with the Museum's world-class collection of opaque watercolors from northern India.

Artist Conley Harris is a former faculty member of the department of art and art history at the University of New Hampshire. A chief scene painter for the Santa Fe Opera House during the 1970s, Harris is now well-known for his lyrical landscapes of New England and the American West. Howard Truelove was a prominent architectural designer and vice president of design at the firm KlingStubbins in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His interior-design work ranged from public spaces in major office buildings to universities and museums.

The couple has been involved with a number of institutions, serving on the visiting committees for the departments of Islamic and Later Indian Art at Harvard University's Fogg and Arthur M. Sackler Museums, and the Art of Asia, Oceania, and Africa at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Harris uses the works in their collection as a source of inspiration, creating paintings that not only absorb motifs from South Asian and Persian paintings, but also the idea of multiple layers, the palimpsest, of artists' working sketches.

Main Building


Support for this exhibition is provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts and The Robert Montgomery Scott Endowment for Exhibitions.


Ainsley M. Cameron, The Ira Brind and Stacey Spector Assistant Curator of South Asian Art

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