Imperial Nature: Flora, Fauna, and Colonialism in India
January 18, 2014 - April 20, 2014
Two different approaches to understanding and depicting nature melded—with beguiling results—as the long interlacing of British and Indian cultures on the subcontinent deepened in the 17th and 18th centuries, an uneasy period of intensifying colonial rule. This exhibition showcases these unique representations of nature, commissioned by Indian princes and increasingly powerful European colonial patrons—an artistic and scientific confluence that forever reshaped the way we view the natural world.
The exhibition examines a wide variety of works commissioned by Indian princes and European elites, featuring works from two important New York collections and 11 never-before-exhibited “Lady Impey” paintings from the private collection of Elizabeth and Willard Clark. Lady Mary Impey, a British colonial in 18th century Calcutta, commissioned Indian painters to illustrate birds from her private menagerie, resulting in images that owe as much to European natural science as India’s rich painterly tradition.