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Description: From Mind, Heart, and Hand: Persian, Turkish, and Indian Drawings from the Stuart...
~From a current perspective, recent advances made in the expanding study of Persian, Indian, and Turkish painting and drawing seem prodigious, even heady. A new generation of scholars is uncovering—and, in many instances, beginning to understand—the fundamental historical processes underlying some of the world’s most distinctive forms of...
PublisherHarvard Art Museums
https://doi.org/10.37862/aaeportal.00053.002
Directors’ Forewords
From a current perspective, recent advances made in the expanding study of Persian, Indian, and Turkish painting and drawing seem prodigious, even heady. A new generation of scholars is uncovering—and, in many instances, beginning to understand—the fundamental historical processes underlying some of the world’s most distinctive forms of visual representation. Despite their undeniable importance and impact across much of visual history, these traditions still remain largely misunderstood and in some cases even studiously ignored. Today increasing numbers of trained researchers—generally the products of rigorous university systems in Europe, the United States, India, and the Islamic world—are working to change that widespread perception, drawing from an impressive array of sophisticated, broad-based methodologies to effect nothing less than the extension of the reach and focus of art history itself.
As impressive as these new achievements are, though, they struggle in many respects to match the daring discoveries of earlier scholars who worked without a net, in virtual anonymity and isolation, in nearly empty arenas. With the increasing complexity and formalization of the field, we could easily overlook and misjudge the worth and enduring importance of earlier leaps forward. Cary Welch was and remains today one of those early explorers. Driven by a deep, abiding intellectual curiosity and a heightened visual sense, he has brought intense observation and meditation to bear on the study of visual phenomena, whatever their form or origin. This lifetime of a deep engagement with a far-flung visual world has enabled him to, in effect, leap across time and space. Relying on his own discerning eye has allowed him to see and understand what others could not and still cannot, and to open doors for colleagues and students. This present catalogue not only demonstrates the startling results of that lifetime of endless looking and seeing but also underscores Cary Welch’s enduring commitment to the goals and purposes of Harvard’s teaching mission.
Paradoxically, that seemingly requisite but elusive ability to see remains a rarity today in much of the field. Yet in repeated instances it has helped establish the baselines from which current research departs, perhaps nowhere better demonstrated than in the study of Safavid painting and drawing, a field virtually invented and shaped by Cary Welch. That remarkable achievement can in many respects easily be extended to the allied fields of Mughal, Deccani, and Rajput art—testimony to the reach and effect of the “poetic” eye. To study today the graphic traditions of what has been called the Turko-Iranian-Indian universe is to confront what is at best an uneasy coexistence of past and present critical approaches. The future will undoubtedly see canons shift, data accumulate, new and previously unimaginable tools and methods emerge and be implemented; perhaps a completely new perspective and sensibility toward the subject will even arise from within the “collected” cultures themselves. Such a future will look very different from the world in which Cary Welch gathered this stunning group of drawings, but it will be difficult, if not impossible, to imagine it without his legacy.
THOMAS W. LENTZ
Elizabeth and John Moors Cabot Director
Harvard University Art Museums
HOW OFTEN, when I was a fledgling paper conservator, would Stuart Cary Welch set his little Louis Vuitton case on my mat-cutting table and pop the latches! Their click was a promise of marvels, an “Open sesame.” Cary would draw out a package of chamois or silk, or a little tin case, or a paper envelope. From this he would unwrap a dagger with a steel blade as sleek as its jade hilt, or a school of golden fish, or a bronze panther of infinite coils, or a tiny painting glistening with iridescent beetle wings. These wonders imply a taste for luxury, an appreciation of rich color and tactile pleasures, and yet just as often Cary would withdraw from his magic case a drawing—pure line, simply black on white or, rather, on the warm buff of Indian, Persian, or Turkish paper. Over the years, from the beginning of the 1960s until the construction in the mid-1980s of the Sackler Museum and the removal of the Islamic and Later Indian Art Department from the fourth floor of the Fogg, I learned that all manner of beauty, spirit, elegance, force—even complex intimations of color, substance, and surface—resided in those drawings.
I was seeing these marvels one by one because Cary was acquiring them at that time, taking advantage of the ignorance or indifference of the collecting world. Whether private or institutional, it seems that other collectors considered these drawings to be only the spume, the froth of more fluent, fully painted works (by masters who themselves were hardly known by name). Cary remembers the dealers in Islamic and Indian art asking him, “How do you know they are genuine?” The dealers could not imagine that knowledge in their terms—secure attribution and manifest value on the art market, for example—was not in play. Knowledge in Cary’s terms—a certainty of the quality of the art, and of intelligence, character, and soul in its maker—was all he needed to justify an acquisition.
Now the acquiring is done, and also the work of connoisseurship: the sorting, pairing, grouping, naming, dating, and above all contemplating and conversing. For Cary, to look and to show are practically synonymous. As I learned to my delight (and instruction), he cannot own something without wanting instantly to share it. Thus in an easy gesture over the years, his private collection became the Fogg’s and then the Sackler’s collection, in fact if not in legal status, so that it could be used without impediment in teaching and exhibition.
Finally, now that his stream of acquisitions has to a large extent dried up, Cary has generously altered his drawings’ legal status. They are, or are becoming, fully ours, and it is our turn to give to the larger world through this catalogue and exhibition the delight (and instruction) that Cary gave to his friends, to colleagues, to students, and even to the young woman who made the “silk suits”—the mats and frames—for his new acquisitions. In the conservation department thirty and more years ago, I never dreamed I would have an opportunity for public gratitude. Time passes. Thank you, Cary, for including me in your adventure.
MARJORIE B. COHN
Acting Director
Harvard University Art Museums
(December 2002–November 2003)
Carl A. Weyerhaeuser Curator of Prints
Fogg Art Museum
Directors’ Forewords
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