Partha Mitter: Jamini Roy: Negotiating the Global from a Local Perspective

Evening lecture

organized by the Max Planck Research Group "Objects in the Contact Zone - The Cross-Cultural Lives of Things"

in particular by Sria Chatterjee and Eva-Maria Troelenberg

This lecture takes the case of the great Indian painter, Jamini Roy (1887-1972). His innovative formalism, based upon primitivist re-imaginings of folk art, mediated between the global and the local. Primitivism, as a western critique of complex societies from the perspective of simpler communities, has been praised as well as denigrated. Nonetheless, the lure of the primitive is acknowledged as a signifier of modernity, especially the role of 'primitive' cultures in avant-garde art. Theorists such as Carl Einstein and Wilhelm Hausenstein have expounded on primitivism as a critical form of modernity, highlighting the predicament of urban existence. Less known but nonetheless a startling fact is that the colonized in the non-western world also used the concept of primitivism to mount their own assault on industrial/colonial capitalism. Jamini Roy constructed a consistent anti-colonial ideology based on his interpretation of primitivism. German Primitivists and Roy were totally unaware of one another. They had arrived at their respective critiques of modernity through different historical routes. So what possible connection could they have? Prof. Mitter describes their similarities as 'structural affinities in a 'virtual global community', since neither knew the existence of the other. What they shared was their resistance to global capitalism and the alienation of urban existence.

Partha Mitter: Hon. D.Lit. (Courtauld Institute, London University); Emeritus Professor Art History, University of Sussex, Member, Wolfson College, Oxford, Honorary Research Fellow, Victoria & Albert Museum, London. Previous honours and positions include Fellow of Clare Hall, Cambridge; Radhakrishnan Lecturer, All Souls College, Oxford; Mellon Fellow, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton; Member, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, California; Fellow, Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts; Senior Fellow, CASVA, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC. Publications include Much Maligned Monsters: History of European Reactions to Indian Art (1977); Art and Nationalism in Colonial India 1850-1922 (1994); Indian Art (2002); The Triumph of Modernism: India's Artists and the Avant-Garde - 1922-1947 (2007).

Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz - Max-Planck-Institut
Palazzo Grifoni Budini Gattai
Via dei Servi 51
50122 Firenze
Sria Chatterjee  


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