In two new exhibits now on display at the Yale Center for British Art, the effects of British colonial rule on 19th-century India are explored through the use of photographs, paintings, prints, illustrated books and other artifacts from the period.
The two exhibits — “Traces of India: Photography, Architecture, and the Politics of Representation,” and “Company Culture: British Artists and the East India Company, 1770-1830” — are designed to complement each other for a deeper look into India’s colonial past.
“We were particularly pleased to be able to provide, in addition to a number of works included in the ‘Traces of India’ exhibition itself, a further context to the exhibition in our complementary show drawn from our collections,” said Scott Wilcox, curator of prints and drawing at the BAC, in an e-mail. “I think the two shows have a very special synergy.”
“Traces of India” features more than 200 photographs of Indian architecture, taken during the 19th-century British colonial period. In addition, the exhibit includes engravings, maps, rare books, and other artifacts from colonial India.
“The exhibition addresses the question of filtration of India through a European lens,” Maria Antonella Pelizzari, the curator of the exhibition, said.
Pelizzari is also the former associate curator of the Photographs Collection at the Canadian Center for Architecture, or CCA, in Montreal where the exhibit originated.
The exhibition was organized by the CCA to explore the development of Indian culture under British rule. The exhibit came to the BAC after Pelizzari visited the center to complete her research.
“We talked for years about doing an India show,” Wilcox said. “‘Traces of India’ provided us with the opportunity to bring out some of our Indian material.”
The installation of “Traces of India” was designed by Lindy Roy, a young, recently-established New York architect.
“Roy, recognized as one of the most innovative architects working today, is known especially for her cutting-edge use of digital technology,” public relations manager Amy McDonald said in an e-mail. “For this exhibition, Roy was asked to design an environment for the works that reflected the spirit and palette of India.”
The second exhibit, “Company Culture: British Artists and the East India Company, 1770-1830,” features paintings, drawings, panoramas, and other visual sources drawn from the center’s own collection.
“Company Culture” examines the role played by British visual artists in the late 18th and early 19th century in documenting the East India Company’s extraordinary imperial initiative and formulating the image of the British presence in India,” Morna O’Neill ART ’04, the curator of the exhibition, said in an e-mail. “The East India Company provides a fascinating case study of a mercantile venture that transformed itself into a land-based empire.”
The scholarly symposium “Representing the Raj” — which will take place Oct. 17 and 18 at the BAC lecture hall — will examine the political and cultural implications of the exhibitions.
The Raj symposium and all related programs have been organized by the BAC in association with the South Asia Humanities Festival, with support from the South Asian Studies Council, the Yale Center for International and Area Studies, the Vinod Rustgi Family Fund, and the Friends of the South Asian Studies Council at Yale.
Both “Traces of India” and “Company Culture” will run through Jan. 11.