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Divine Mothers Across Borders of National Identities – Japanese-Indian Artistic Exchanges in Early Twentieth-Century Buddhist Paintings and the Reception of the British Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood’s concept of ‹Spirituality› and ‹Sensitivity›

Doctoral student: Dinah Zank, M.A.
Funded by: URPP Asia and Europe
Project duration: September 2011 – December 2013
Doctoral committee: Prof. Dr. Hans Bjarne Thomsen, Art History Institute, Section for East Asian Art/URPP Asia and Europe; Prof. Dr. Angelika Malinar, Indology, Institute of Indo-Germanic Studies, Department of Indology/URPP Asia and Europe; Prof. Dr. Monica Juneja, Global Art History / Cluster of Excellence Asia and Europe in a Global Context, Heidelberg
Research Field: Entangled Histories

Abstract

Although the title of Dômoto Inshô's painting Kariteimo / Hariti conflated themes of Bengali Hinduism and Japanese Buddhism, it was still chosen to represent modern Japanese paintings at the  Japanese Art Institute in 1922. Not only does the painting depict a gendered Indian myth in all its iconographical glory, but it also contains connections to the Japanese theme of  'Kannon with child' and also to the theme of the Virgin Mary as depicted by the British Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. This unusual transcultural visuality urges us to reconsider Dômoto's painting as well as works by artists such as Yokoyama Taikan and Arai Kanpô, as a specific new type of pan-Asiatic discourse, that is, as examples of Japanese-Indian artistic dialogues, filtered through the reception of  contemporary British artistic traditions.

These Indian connections within modern Japanese paintings can also be considered to be an imperialist agenda hidden behind a pan-Asianistic surface. The present research will examine the  transcultural connections between Japan, West Bengal and Great Britain, and will ask how they occurred through the cultural and political asymmetry of colonialism in India and despite the resurgent nationalism in all three countries. In creating such works, Dômoto and others rejected governmental art institutes and created alternative public spheres in order to explore Japan's medieval history.  The remarkable movement they created carries paradoxical titles such as 'Transcultural Nationalism' and 'Restaurative Modernism,' indicating the complexity of their goals just as the significance of gender in creating modernity.