Home National museum The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art Announces ‘A Splendid Land: Paintings from Royal Udaipur’

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art Announces ‘A Splendid Land: Paintings from Royal Udaipur’


The National Museum of Asian Art presents “A Splendid Land: Paintings from Royal Udaipur,” a major survey of works from the lakeside city of Udaipur in Rajasthan, India, from November 19 to May 14, 2023. Presented in collaboration with The City Palace Museum in Udaipur administered by the Maharana of Mewar Charitable Foundation, the exhibition brings together 63 works on paper, cotton and scrolls from collections around the world to reveal how artists have sought to convey the sensory and lived experience of the lakeside city . Many of the paintings have never been publicly exhibited or published. Curated by Debra Diamond (Elizabeth Moynihan Curator for South Asian and Southeast Asian Art at the National Museum of Asian Art) and Dipti Khera (Associate Professor at New York University), ” A Splendid Land” will be exhibited in the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. This is the first in a series of exhibits that celebrate the National Museum of Asian Arts’ centenary in 2023.

In the 18th century, artists in Udaipur shifted their focus from small poetic manuscripts to large-scale paintings of the city’s palaces, lakes, mountains, and seasons. They sought to convey the bhava, the emotional tenor and sensory experiences, which make places and times memorable. It was unlike anything else in Indian art. The paintings express themes of belonging and prosperous future that are universal. “A Splendid Land” explores the environmental, political and emotional contexts in which the new genre emerged. Udaipur’s economy depended on annual monsoons, intensive water harvesting, and securing the loyalty of nobles and allies. By celebrating regional abundance and courtly sophistication, the paintings strengthened friendships in the changing political landscapes of modern South Asia.

“The National Museum of Asian Art has a rich history of connecting visitors with South Asian arts and cultures,” said Chase F. Robinson, Dame Jillian Sackler Director of Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and Freer Gallery of Art. “Building on a long-standing collaboration with Indian colleagues, the exhibition will allow the museum to present extraordinary but little-known pieces to a global audience, enriching their understanding of a fascinating moment in India’s past. ”

The National Museum of Asian Art has over 1,200 objects in its South Asian collections. Sculptures, paintings and manuscripts illuminate the many religious and courtly traditions of the subcontinent; photography is central to contemporary Indian heritage. “A Splendid Land” includes 13 paintings from the National Museum of Asian Art; the paintings of Udaipur are a strength of the collection.

The works featured in the exhibition reveal how painters developed a new genre centered on the lived experience of local landscapes, lake systems and palaces. The workshop has become an incubator; over some 200 years, artists have found new ways to evoke mood, trigger memories and create feelings of connection. This shift in subject differs from the body-centric visual traditions of Indian art over two millennia. “A Splendid Land” is the first exhibition to closely examine this change and how it broadened the understanding of emotions and sensory experience, as well as the management of climate and natural resources, in early modern India.

“A Splendid Land” is organized as a journey that begins in the center of Udaipur and continues outwards: first to the lakes and lake palaces, then to the city, the countryside and finally to the cosmos. An ambient soundscape by acclaimed experimental filmmaker Amit Dutta (b. 1977, Jammu, India) highlights the sensory elements of the paintings, inviting contemporary audiences to feel – not just see – the moods of these extraordinary places and paintings. The installation will include 51 works on paper (approximately 3 feet by 4 feet), five monumental works on cotton (ranging from 5 feet to 10 feet in height), a scroll (9 feet in length) from the 17th to 19th centuries and six photographs of the 19th and 20th centuries.

“The structure of the exhibition responds directly to the visuality of the paintings and the historical aims of the artists,” said Diamond, a scholar of Indian court painting. “Each gallery is centered on the emotions engendered by a particular place or season. The sequence of immersive atmospheres will enhance the sensory experience of the place for museum visitors. I am grateful to the City Palace Museum for partnering on this exciting project which allows our visitors to get a sense of Udaipur and its cultural heritage, and to co-curator Dipti Khera, whose groundbreaking work on historical emotions is at the heart of the exhibition. ”

Diamond has held numerous exhibitions with the National Museum of Asian Art, including ‘Garden & Cosmos’ (2008–9), ‘Yoga: The Art of Transformation’ (2013–4) and ‘Body Image: Arts from the Indian Subcontinent’ . currently on view in the museum’s Freer Gallery of Art. Khera, an associate professor in the Department of Art History and the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University, has published widely, highlighting art that challenges colonial perspectives and world histories of the 18th and 19th centuries.

“A Splendid Land” will be accompanied by a robust program of public events, including a public symposium on the monsoon, past and present, and how art reveals cultural attitudes towards natural resources and speaks about climate crises in South Asia that combine the perspectives of the past with those of the future. Additionally, traditional Rajasthani music group Raitila Rajasthan will perform “Music of Splendid Land”, with songs inspired by themes from the paintings of Udaipur featured at the exhibition.

“A Splendid Land: Paintings of Royal Udaipur” is organized by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art in conjunction with the City Palace Museum, Udaipur administered by the Maharana of Mewar Charitable Foundation.

The National Museum of Asian Art acknowledges the support of the members of the “A Splendid Land: Paintings from Royal Udaipur” Board of Directors.

Exhibition Co-Chairs

Farhad and Mary Ebrahimi
Dr. Vijay and Mrs. Nanda Anand

Exhibition Benefactors
Nancy Swift Furlotti (Pettit Foundation)
Nancy Chang Lee

Exhibition Sponsors
Dr. Susan L. Beningson and Steve Arons
The Honorable and Mrs. William A. Nitze
Iris and Lawrence Miller
Dr. Bruce Chalker and Dr. Polly A. Penhale
Mrs. Elizabeth Gomersall
Ashok and Stuti Kaveeshwar
Jane WashburnRobinson

Additional support is provided by Elizabeth Moynihan Conservator of South and Southeast Asian Art Endowment, The Ashok and Marion Deshmukh Endowment for South Asia, Smithsonian’s Scholarly Studies, and the Smithsonian Women’s Committee.

About the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art is committed to preserving, exhibiting, researching and interpreting art in ways that deepen our collective understanding of Asia and the world. Housing more than 45,000 objects, the museum is home to one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of Asian art in North America, with works dating from ancient times to the present day from China, Japan, from Korea, South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Islamic world. Its rich collections bring the arts of Asia into direct dialogue with an extensive collection of 19th and early 20th century American works, providing an essential platform for creative collaboration and cultural exchange between the United States, the Asia and the Middle East.

Beginning with a 1906 gift that paved the way for the museum’s opening in 1923, the National Museum of Asian Art is a premier resource for visitors, students, and scholars in the United States and around the world. . Its galleries, laboratories, archives and library are located on the National Mall in Washington, DC, and are part of the largest museum complex in the world, which welcomes more than 30 million visitors each year. The museum is free and open to the public 364 days a year, making its exhibits, programs, learning opportunities and digital initiatives accessible to a global audience.

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