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Living Line: Selected Indian Drawings from the Sabhash Kapoor Gift on View at the Metropolitan
Battle scene from Devi Mahatmya. India (Pahari hills, Guler), c. 1760. Ink, wash and translucent watercolor on paper 2008.359.11

NEW YORK, NY.- Underlying every Indian painting, be it an opaque watercolor on paper, a mural on plaster or a painting on cloth, is the preparatory drawing. It provides the conceptual and compositional foundations of the fully realized painting and yet is rarely witnessed by the admirer of the finished work. This exhibition explores the “hidden art” of drawing as it flourished in the court ateliers of northern India from the late 17th through to the late19th centuries.

The Indian drawings in the Subhash Kapoor Gift date principally to the 18th century and represents all the major schools of northern Indian painting, notably in Rajasthan the studio arts of the courts of Mewar, Sawar, Jodhpur, Deogarh, Kishangarh, Bundi, Kotah, and Nathadwara, and in the Punjab hills the courts arts of Guler, Mandi and Kangra.

Executed mostly in black ink, sometimes enhanced with watercolour and typically on fine laminated papers, these works serve a number of purposes: some are exploratory sketches in which ideas can be seen being worked out, whilst others are highly finished drawings intended to be retained within artist studios as reference works for finished paintings, as well as to be enjoyed by the patron and his court circle as connoisseur’s objects. Others served as actual understudies for miniature paintings not completed or as designs for transfer to palace walls as murals.

Drawings and preparatory sketches represent the first essential creative step in the process of picture-making in the Indian court ateliers. Through them we can witness the exploratory steps taken by the artist and gain an insight into the collaborative nature of studio-produced drawing and painting in the later court arts of Hindu India.

The collection of 58 Indian drawings has been donated by Subhash Kapoor in the memory of his parents, Smt Shashi Kanta and Shree Parshotam Ram Kapoor. The gift represents the distillation of the finest works assembled over two generations of collecting by Subhash and his late father Shree Parshotam Ram.

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