Indian Christmas at the V&A

Exhibition of Kalighat painting to tour the UK

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London

A National Touring Exhibition of Kalighat Painting, sponsored by British Telecom, has begun its tour at the Victoria and Albert Museum. These popular watercolour paintings, originally created by local artists in the nineteenth century for itinerant pilgrims visiting the temple of the goddess Kali in Calcutta, were produced in bulk and disseminated all over the Indian sub-continent. In the intervening years many were lost or destroyed, and the largest surviving collection is now in British museums, with the V&A holding the most important. The paintings’ diverse subject matter derives both from Hindu mythology and from close observation of court life and the animal kingdom. Included in the display are 125 works, in the first exhibition to be devoted exclusively to this subject (until 19 February 1995). It includes generous loans from the India Office Library, the British Museum and the Wellcome Trust, in addition to the V&A’s collection, and will travel to Leicestershire Museum and Art Gallery, Bradford Cartwright Hall and Oxford Museum of Modern Art. The opening at the V&A is timed to coincide with the biennial redisplay of the Nehru Gallery of Indian Art. The Indian collection at the V&A comprises around 40,000 pieces, representing the largest group of Indian art and artefacts outside India. Roughly 5% of the collection is on display at any one time. The new display will include the Queen of Oudh’s costume and old favourites such as Tipoo’s Tiger. To coincide with both these events, the museum will be celebrating an “Indian Christmas” with a series of family events including demonstrations of miniature painting and Indian music and dance (9-22 December).

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