होम Modern Asian Studies Coomaraswamyby Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy; Roger Lipsey

Coomaraswamyby Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy; Roger Lipsey

यह पुस्तक आपको कितनी अच्छी लगी?
फ़ाइल की गुणवत्ता क्या है?
पुस्तक की गुणवत्ता का मूल्यांकन करने के लिए यह पुस्तक डाउनलोड करें
डाउनलोड की गई फ़ाइलों की गुणवत्ता क्या है?
Modern Asian Studies
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आप पुस्तक समीक्षा लिख सकते हैं और अपना अनुभव साझा कर सकते हैं. पढ़ूी हुई पुस्तकों के बारे में आपकी राय जानने में अन्य पाठकों को दिलचस्पी होगी. भले ही आपको किताब पसंद हो या न हो, अगर आप इसके बारे में ईमानदारी से और विस्तार से बताएँगे, तो लोग अपने लिए नई रुचिकर पुस्तकें खोज पाएँगे.

Ch'ing Changing Images of the Overseas Chinese (1644-1912)

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Coomaraswamy by Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy; Roger Lipsey
Review by: K. R. Norman
Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 15, No. 2 (1981), pp. 339-341
Published by: Cambridge University Press
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Modern Asian Studies, I5, 2 (1981), pp. 339-353.

Printed in Great Britain.

Coomaraswamy.By ROGER LIPSEY. Bollingen Series LXXXIX.
University Press: Princeton, N.J., 1977. Three vols.: Pp. xxxvii, 580;
xxvi, 470; xvii, 312. $30.00/?22.40, $30.oo/?37.40, $I7.50/?I3.30.
It is perhaps hard for us to realize now that until the end of the nineteenth
century, despite the long connection which had existed between England and
India, many British art critics found Indian art repulsive, and even a critic as
sympathetic as Ruskin seems to have been horrified by the exotic iconography
of Indian sacred art. If Western ideas about this have changed, then it is by
no means too farfetched to ascribe the greater part of the merit for making
the change to one man-Ananda
Kentish Coomaraswamy (I877-I947).
The son of an eminent Sinhalese Tamil and an English mother, he was
educated in England after his father's death when he was two years old. He
took a first-class degr; ee in Geology and Botany in 900 at London University,
became the first director of the newly-formed Mineralogical Survey of
Ceylon, and after publishing the results of several years of field work obtained
the D. Sc. degree in 1906. Already, however, a transformation was taking place,
and he was beginning to feel the influence of the Sinhalese culture which
was his by heredity but not environment. He began to write about Sinhalese
art, which had all but withered away when faced with the competition of its
Western counterparts. With others who were anxious to encourage Sinhalese
and Buddhist studies, he founded the Ceylon Social Reform Society in 1905.
In 1907 he returned to England, perhaps believing that the decline of Sinhalese cnlture had passed the point at which it could respond to his efforts to
revive it. His inheritance had removed the need for him to work for his living,
and he bought a house at Broad Campden, where he became closely connected with C. R. Ashbee's Guild of Handicrafts. In I908 he published his
first major work of art history, Mediaeval Sinhalese Art, which was printed on
William Morris's printing presses, which the guild had bought in 1898. There
is no evidence that Morris and Coomaraswamy ever met, and yet the
influence of Morris upon Coomaraswamy in the early years of his life was
very strong, and the 'anti-industrialism' attitude which can be attacked in
some of his writings, and the blind disregard for the impossibility of ignoring
the Industrial Revolution, seem to stem directly from William Morris.
Coomaraswamy's interests began to turn from Ceylon to India, and from
1908 onwards he started to publish papers on Indian art and religion. In 191
he and others founded the India Society to promote the study of Indian art and
culture, and the publication by Roger Fry in the same year of a defence of
oriental art in the face of a savage declaration by Sir George Birdwood stating
that there was no fine art in India, and comparing a photograph of a meditating Buddha exhibited by E. B. Havell to a boiled suet pudding, firmly marks
that year as the date of the change in attitude mentioned above.
Coomaraswamy's interest in India was not confined to art and culture at


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this time. In the years before the First World War he seems to have travelled
several times to India, where he joined the circle of Bengali nationalist
thinkers. The partition of Bengal in I905 had led to the wide-spread svadeshi
movement. Coomaraswamy became a friend of the Tagores, and published
two volumes of essays, Essays in National Idealism and Art and Swadeshi, but for
reasons which can only be guessed at he decided not to settle in India and
throw in his lot with the nationalists. Perhaps he was more interested in
an echo of William Blake he
matters of the mind than in politics-with
won in mental warfare, and
not in rebellion.'
These visits to India in the period I909-I3 enabled Coomaraswamy to
travel widely and collect material for what is reckoned to be his single most
important contribution to the history of Indian art, his discovery of Rajput
painting, made known to the world in Rajput Painting, published in 19I6. In
fairness to other art critics it has to be said that he did not so much change the
minds of the West about 'eight-armed monsters' as discover a whole new
realm of Indian art which those same critics might well have appreciated had
they but known of its existence. It is his true claim to fame to have been able
to distinguish this indigenous art form from the foreign style of Mughal
painting with which it had been confused by other art historians, and to set
in their context the cycle of Krsna and other divine legends and also the
srhgdra (erotic) cycle, which gives to the Rajput style its sensual and at the
same time religious meaning.
The most important result of the publication of this book for Coomaraswamy was that the prestige gained by it, and also by his private collection
upon which it was based, attracted the attention of one of the leading patrons
of the Boston Museum. There is evidence that while in India he tried to give
his collection to the people of India, provided that a National Museum was
founded to house it and similar collections. He also tried to obtain a university
chair in Indian art and culture, but the time was not ripe for either of these
developments, and it was perhaps the failure of these two schemes which led
to his disillusionment with India and his return to England. In I916 England
was facing defeat in the First World War, and in January of that year instituted conscription. Unwilling to serve in the British armed forces, he was
persuaded, by an offer from Dr. Denman W. Ross to purchase his collection
and by the decision of the trustees of the Boston Museum to invite Coomaraswamy to become the curator of the newly-created Indian section formed
around his collection, to migrate to America in 1917.
For the first ten years at the Museum he busied himself with the task for
which he had been appointed, cataloguing the Indian collections and writing
articles about specific objects, but later on his duties were neglected and the
art historian became submerged in the philosopher. The Museum trustees
reconciled themselves to this to some extent in 1933 by making him a Fellow
for Research, which relieved him of many of his curatorial responsibilities.
His publications became more and more concerned with religion, metaphysics and culture, and even those about art tended to deal with the broad
philosophical aspects of iconography or symbolism, as art studies became for
him a means of recovering and experiencing truth. In his writings he had a

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liking for the simple title which sometimes over- and sometimes underestimated the value and contents of a book or article-'The
Message of the
East', as though the East had only one message, or 'Some Pali Words', which
under such an uninformative title dealt with some of the most important
terms of Buddhist metaphysics. Nevertheless the plainness of his titles masked
the complexity of the language in which he wrote. Even when famous, his
articles were sometimes rejected by editors who found them 'perhaps a little
too heavy.' Most of his papers have long been out of print, and scattered
through a wide range of journals, and the decision to reprint 56 of them in
two volumes is highly welcome. The selection is limited to those written in
the period I932-47: Vol. I contains 30 essays on Traditional Art and Symbolism, and Vol. II is devoted to 26 articles on Metaphysics. The latter
includes six essays, unpublished elsewhere. One of these, intended for the
Festschrift for George Sarton but rejected by the editor, is entitled 'On the
Indian and Traditional Psychology, or rather Pneumatology'. Despite its
heaviness and length, which led to its rejection, it can now been seen that it
deserves to rank high among his articles.
Lipsey's study of His Life and Work (Vol. III) contains many gaps,
particularly for the earlier period, and leaves some tantalizing questions
unanswered, e.g. we are told nothing of the life and background of Coomaraswamy's first wife Ethel; we merely read, 'Coomaraswamy arrived in Ceylon
with his English wife Ethel Mary (nee Partridge), married June I902, and
settled in a bungalow just outside Kandy.' Later on we find: 'Their marriage
broke up in this period [c. I9IO1. It is difficult now to know the causes-and
certainly Coomaraswamy with his distaste for biography would find it
irrelevant for us to know of them.' If we are to respect his views about biography, we should presumably have no biography of him at all.
Those who read this biography and the personal memory of Coomaraswamy by Eric Schoeder which is added as an Appendix, will be left with a
feeling that Coomaraswamy was a man of strange paradoxes and contradictions: a trained geologist who gained the D.Sc. degree but devoted his life to
Oriental art; a Sinhalese who became an Indian nationalist; an Indian
nationalist who worked in the West because working on fine art was impossible in India at the time; an Indian nationalist who nevertheless thought it
most desirable for the allies to win the First World War; an Indian nationalist
who nevertheless was unwilling to express his support for nationalism publicly;
a man who thought of marriage as a sacrament, and yet divorced three times;
a man three times divorced who nevertheless stayed on apparently good
terms with his ex-wives and corresponded with them for the remainder of his
life; a relentless critic of English national motives who had a taste for English
'coziness', clothes and literary wit; a man who extolled the anonymity of the
craftsman, yet delighted in his own 'fanmail'; a man who hated the materialistic culture of America, yet spent thirty years there rather than in Asia, his
spiritual home. And yet Coomaraswamy's consistency was far more important
than his inconsistencies, and it is for his consistency as an attacker of Man's
ignorance and as an upholder of the Truth that he will be best remembered.
Faculty of Oriental Studies, Cambridtge


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