Exhibition

South Asian Art

Ongoing

Following independence from British Rule in 1947, artists in India aimed to uncover a visual language that was uniquely Indian in inspiration to convey their experiences, struggles, ambitions and dreams. Bridging myth with social and political history, the new Chester and Davida Herwitz Gallery tells the story of nation-building and self-discovery through works by India's most celebrated artistic geniuses of the 20th century.

The new Prashant H. Fadia Foundation and Deshpande Foundation Gallery features a selection of objects from PEM's extensive collection of historical material from India. Focused primarily on the 19th century, the gallery considers India's long and complex history of foreign occupation, and its troubling impact on the representation of Indian people in art. Featuring some of the earliest objects to come to PEM, including unfired clay sculpture, mica paintings and kalighat paintings, the gallery considers and questions the timeless tropes of India that persist even today.

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The following donors have generously supported the South Asian Art Galleries: Carla and David Herwitz, the family of Lisina Hoch, Smita and Mahesh Patel, Brian and Sunita Pereira, and Jurrien Timmer.


TOP IMAGE: Tyeb Mehta, Untitled (from Diagonal Lines Series), 1973. Acrylic on canvas. Gift of the Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection, 2001. Photo by Walter Silver/PEM.

"PEM puts the Herwitz collection to dazzling use." – Boston Globe

"PEM’s Indian galleries are an education that way: About a nation apart, but not totally apart; a culture of its own, still digging out from its colonial past."   – Boston Globe

Nalini Malani, Old Arguments on Indigenism, 1989. Acrylic and oil on canvas. Gift of the Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection, 2001. E301088. Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Walter Silver/PEM.
Nalini Malani, Old Arguments on Indigenism, 1989. Acrylic and oil on canvas. Gift of the Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection, 2001. E301088. Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Walter Silver/PEM.
Gieve Patel, Gateway, 1981. Oil on canvas. Gift of the Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection, 2003. E301102. Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Walter Silver/PEM.
Gieve Patel, Gateway, 1981. Oil on canvas. Gift of the Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection, 2003. E301102. Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Walter Silver/PEM.
Gieve Patel, Two Men with Hand Cart, 1979. Oil on canvas. Gift of the Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection, 2003. E301289. Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Barbara Kennedy/PEM.
Gieve Patel, Two Men with Hand Cart, 1979. Oil on canvas. Gift of the Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection, 2003. E301289. Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Barbara Kennedy/PEM.
Tyeb Mehta, Untitled, 1973. Acrylic on canvas. Gift of the Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection, 2001. E301099. Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Walter Silver/PEM.
Tyeb Mehta, Untitled, 1973. Acrylic on canvas. Gift of the Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection, 2001. E301099. Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Walter Silver/PEM.
Biren De. August ’78, 1978. Oil on canvas. Gift of the Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection, 2001. E301031. Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Walter Silver/PEM.
Biren De. August ’78, 1978. Oil on canvas. Gift of the Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection, 2001. E301031. Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Walter Silver/PEM.
Maqbool Fida Husain, Kauravas (Mahabharata 17), 1971. Oil on canvas. Gift of the Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection, 2001. E301285. Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Barbara Kennedy/PEM.
Maqbool Fida Husain, Kauravas (Mahabharata 17), 1971. Oil on canvas. Gift of the Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection, 2001. E301285. Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Barbara Kennedy/PEM.
Maqbool Fida Husain, Ganga Jamna (Mahabharata 12), 1971. Oil on canvas. The Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection, 1998. E300244. Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Mark Sexton and Jeffrey R. Dykes/PEM.
Maqbool Fida Husain, Ganga Jamna (Mahabharata 12), 1971. Oil on canvas. The Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection, 1998. E300244. Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Mark Sexton and Jeffrey R. Dykes/PEM.
Sudhir Patwardhan, Ceremony, 1984. Oil on canvas. Gift of the Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection, 2003. E301191. Peabody Essex Museum.
Sudhir Patwardhan, Ceremony, 1984. Oil on canvas. Gift of the Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection, 2003. E301191. Peabody Essex Museum.
Maqbool Fida Husain, Untitled, 1986. Oil on canvas. Gift of the Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection, 2003. E301288. Estate of Maqbool Fida Husain. Photo by Jeffrey R. Dykes/PEM.
Maqbool Fida Husain, Untitled, 1986. Oil on canvas. Gift of the Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection, 2003. E301288. Estate of Maqbool Fida Husain. Photo by Jeffrey R. Dykes/PEM.
Gulam Rasul Santosh, Untitled, 1973. Oil on canvas.  Gift of the Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection, 2001. E301212. Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Walter Silver/PEM.
Gulam Rasul Santosh, Untitled, 1973. Oil on canvas. Gift of the Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection, 2001. E301212. Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Walter Silver/PEM.
G. Ravinder Reddy, Woman ’95, 1995. Fiberglass and gilding. Gift of the Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection, 1999. E300456. Peabody Essex Museum.
G. Ravinder Reddy, Woman ’95, 1995. Fiberglass and gilding. Gift of the Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection, 1999. E300456. Peabody Essex Museum.
Maqbool Fida (M.F.) Husain, Dacoit, about 1980. Oil on canvas. Gift of the Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection, 2003. E301046. Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by JeffreyDykes/PEM.
Maqbool Fida (M.F.) Husain, Dacoit, about 1980. Oil on canvas. Gift of the Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection, 2003. E301046. Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by JeffreyDykes/PEM.

The Mahabharata is the longest epic in human history, known across India by people of all ages, regions, and faiths. A condensed adaptation of the story helps introduce some of the characters and critical moments represented in paintings in PEM's South Asian Art gallery:

For thousands of years, shifting empires and kingdoms have claimed territories and dictated changing borders within the Indian subcontinent. This map concisely illustrates the movement of India's boundaries from the Mughal empire to the present moment.

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Telling the story of the Mahabharata

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India and its people

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Giving light