This book is a worthy addition to Phaidon's excellent Art and Ideas series, which provides overviews of the major art traditions of the world. India is vast (the size of Europe); the birthplace of great religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism; and the home of sophisticated civilizations dating back more than 4,000 years. These factors combine to give India one of the longest and most complex art traditions of the world--and one of the hardest to make accessible to the general reader.
Vidya Dehejia, curator of Indian art at the Smithsonian Institution, is up to the task. She sets the scene with an invaluable chapter explaining ancient Indian theories of art and aesthetics, including the responsibilities of the viewer. Most important is the realization that "the consistent fabric of Indian life was never rent by the Western dichotomy between religious belief and worldly practice"--hence the easy coexistence in India of extreme religious asceticism and the overt eroticism that pervades temples like Khajuraho and Patan. The book proceeds in a grand sweep, from the ancient cities of the Indus valley, the development of Buddhist art (which by the 12th century had faded away in the land of its birth), the glorious paintings of Ajanta, the luxury of Mughal art and architecture, art of the British Raj, to today's artistic ferment. Clear and well-written, with nearly 300 well-chosen color illustrations, this is an extremely useful introduction to India's vast artistic wealth. --John Stevenson
From Library Journal
Dehejia, curator of the Smithsonian's Indian and Southeast Asian collection, surveys the full breadth of artistic traditions from ancient times to the present. Rossi (painting, Art Inst. of Chicago) focuses her sights on the popular and folk arts of the last four centuries.
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