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Volume 69 Number 1, September-December 2017

Volume 69 Number 1

India-France: Artistic Exchanges
Edited by: Devika Singh

India-France: Artistic Exchanges
Devika Singh

"Farenghi Paintings": Cultural Exchanges between France and India, 1550–1850
Jean-Marie Lafont

Approaching India: French Fragments
Deepak Ananth

A Shifting Consideration of Louis Malle’s Phantom India: Then and Now
Shanay Jhaveri

A Savage Garden: The Paris Photographs of Umrao Singh Sher-Gil
Rakhee Balaram

Henri Cartier-Bresson in India
Portfolio selected and introduced by Beth Citron

André Malraux and India
Maël Renouard

Auroville: The Creation of a City
Aurélien Lemonier

Costumes and Collages
Christian Lacroix and Pascal Monteil

Alternative Conceptualism: Jean Bhownagary and Krishna Reddy in Paris
Sumesh Sharma

Portrait of a Paradox: Novera
Nada Raza

Exhibition Report: Indian Jewels Illuminate the Grand Palais
Julia Trouilloud

The images on the inside cover and pages 1–7 feature The Others, a photo project by Olivier Culmann.

Thematic Ad Portfolio: The Self as the Other
Vol. 69 No. 1, September–December 2017, pp. 1–7

This thematic ad portfolio is about a photo series called The Others, put together by Olivier Culmann during his travels in India. Using traditional and digital studio backdrops and props, Culmann posed as some of the typical characters he encountered here. In the second phase of the project, he submitted torn-up black-and-white passport photos of himself to the studios and got them to recreate these in complete form. In the third phase, he had painter Kanojia Surender reinterpret his black-and-white photos in the style of popular film posters. The results which are humorous, question photography’s claim to authenticity by foregrounding its constructed quality. Finally, with the foreigner convincingly passing himself off as a local, Culmann also challenges the easy boundaries we make between the self and the other.

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Editorial Note
Gupta, Latika
Vol. 69 No. 1, September–December 2017, p. 12

The associate editor places this issue in the context of older issues of Marg that have explored India’s connections with Europe (and France in particular) and highlights the new insights that carry the legacy forward.

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India-France: Artistic Exchanges
Singh, Devika
Vol. 69 No. 1, September–December 2017, pp. 14–21

This essay provides an introduction to the magazine, highlighting India’s relations with France from the late 18th century onwards. Since France’s colonial presence in India was limited and ended rather peaceably in the 1950s, her interest in India remained more aesthetic than political, the perspective shifting from a 19th-century Orientalist gaze to a more internationalist approach by the 20th century. Indians also made the most of their encounter with the French, with many artists travelling to Paris in the post WW II era to escape the Anglocentrism of colonial art school education, and reshaping the cultural and artistic scene of the European capital even as they found their own voices and freedom.

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"Farenghi Paintings": Cultural Exchanges between France and India, 1550–1850
Lafont, Jean-Marie
Vol. 69 No. 1, September–December 2017, pp. 22–32

Paintings done in India for European patrons since the 16th century were known as "farenghi paintings", to which the English East India Company’s hegemony (1757 onwards) added the alternative name "company paintings". This essay looks at the evolution of these paintings through farenghis (Franks or French) who journeyed to the subcontinent in the Mughal period and later set up the Compagnies des Indes (1664–1793) to accelerate the growth of commercial and cultural relations between India and their motherland. Post 1763, many of these Frenchmen served as military advisers to Indian states and commissioned Indian artists to adapt their works to a foreign style and taste. Following a close study of the Gentil Album and his exchanges with the famous scholar and collector Mildred Archer, Jean-Marie Lafont manages to establish the anteriority and the specificity of a French school of painting that was different from British "company paintings".

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Approaching India: French Fragments
Ananth, Deepak
Vol. 69 No. 1, September–December 2017, pp. 33–41

This essay views French encounters with a newly independent India through various artists who visited the country or otherwise sought inspiration from it. These include filmmakers like Louis Malle, Marguerite Duras and Jean Renoir, writers like Henri Michaux, architects like Le Corbusier, and sculptors like Constantin Brancusi, Auguste Rodin and Alberto Giacometti. While some came on commissioned projects and produced works which bore a direct cross-cultural influence, others embarked on more personal journeys, their final products remaining either incomplete or in a state of confusion and fascination for a land they had not quite understood. In almost all these cases, India represented for the French a space of tradition, eclecticism, mysticism and nostalgia for a bygone time.

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A Shifting Consideration of Louis Malle’s Phantom India: Then and Now
Jhaveri, Shanay
Vol. 69 No. 1, September–December 2017, pp. 42–47

This essay revisits the initial controversial reception of Phantom India (1969), Louis Malle’s self-conscious attempt to film and document a country and culture he was fascinated by but unfamiliar to. Despite Indian critics responding rather favourably to it and Malle’s other film Calcutta (1969), the opposition shown by certain government authorities highlighted the rise of a nationalist conservatism which stood in opposition to the Nehruvian internationalist approach of the earlier decades. The piece also considers the influence and impact Malle's film had on subsequent generations of filmmakers and artists, and how their appraisal and understanding of the film reveals some of the core concerns that remain at the heart of any cross-cultural representational project.

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A Savage Garden: The Paris Photographs of Umrao Singh Sher-Gil
Balaram, Rakhee
Vol. 69 No. 1, September–December 2017, pp. 48–57

Analysing a series of photographs taken by Umrao Singh Sher-Gil of his home at 11, Rue De Bassano in the 1930s, this essay looks at the early Indian immigrant’s experience of Paris. Unlike other photographs of the period that celebrate the bohemian streets of Haussman’s city, the outside world is here reflected in the interior views of a family and their everyday life and objects. Photography becomes their tool for personal archiving and self-conscious image-making: documenting their joys and losses and their attempts to embrace a cross-cultural cosmopolitan identity while still retaining ties with the India they had left behind. The presence of nature and tropical plants in many of the photos are a reminder of warmth and life that served as signs of hope in the midst of the cold and uncertainty of a new land.

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Henri Cartier-Bresson in India
Citron, Beth
Vol. 69 No. 1, September–December 2017, pp. 58–65

In 1947, the French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908−2004) held his first solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, co-founded what would become the photography cooperative Magnum Photos, and undertook his first trip to India as part of a three-year stay in Asia. This trip became pivotal when he travelled to Delhi in January 1948 to meet and photograph India’s great leader Mahatma Gandhi, shortly before he was assassinated. The resulting photos of Gandhi’s last day of life and the events surrounding his funeral helped catapult Cartier-Bresson to international fame as a photojournalist. The present selection includes a suite of four photographs from Gandhi’s final days and funeral. The remaining six photos are drawn from political events and everyday life taken on multiple trips to India between 1947 and 1986. Collectively these images reveal the spirit and sensibility of Cartier-Bresson’s humanist perspective developed in and beyond the subcontinent.

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André Malraux and India
Renouard, Mäel
Vol. 69 No. 1, September–December 2017, pp. 66–69

André Malraux who was Minister of Culture under General Charles de Gaulle, visited Nehru’s India on diplomatic missions. But he was more fascinated with India from an Oriental perspective and the spiritual insights it provided him. This essay highlights these influences and visions that appeared in his writings on art and his autobiography. Inspired by the ideas of reincarnation and transmigration, Malraux often presents himself as having lived several lives, this tone making his personal narrative seem more like a legend where dreams and reality come together.

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Auroville: The Creation of a City
Lemonier, Aurélien
Vol. 69 No. 1, September–December 2017, pp. 70–77

Auroville’s early roots can be traced to an ashram complex set up by the Indian revolutionary and philosopher Aurobindo Ghose and his French disciple Mirra Alfassa in Pondicherry in the 1920s and ’30s. By 1968, it had grown into a large-scale township under the design of French architect Roger Anger. This essay describes its evolution and discusses it as a project in international modernism that ran parallel to (and served as an alternative to) other national urban planning experiments such as Chandigarh. Auroville remained unique in its aim to create a new model of “urban humanism” that brought together material rationalism with the ethos of a utopic community guided by spiritualism. It also sought to defy and blur the easy binaries drawn between East and West, traditionalist vision and modernization and individual freedom and collective structure.

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Costumes and Collages
Lacroix, Christian and Monteil, Pascal
Vol. 69 No. 1, September–December 2017, pp. 78–82

In these special artists pages, Christian Lacroix, the French fashion designer, discusses images of/from India he collected in his early scrapbooks and the oriental elements he tried to incorporate in his outfits for a production of George Bizet’s Les Pêcheurs de perle. In a second section, Pascal Monteil, a set designer who has worked with Lacroix, shares collages from the series L’Eden where he brings together various elements from his photographic travels in India (and Asia and Europe) to create multilayered cityscapes and landscapes that reflect the chaotic diversity of this region and culture.

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Alternative Conceptualism and Subaltern Intersections in Paris: Jean Bhownagary and Krishna Reddy
Sharma, Sumesh
Vol. 69 No. 1, September–December 2017, pp. 83–89

This essay traces the diverse careers and identities of artists Krishna Reddy and Jehangir Bhownagary. Krishna Reddy invented the multicoloured viscosity print technique while working at Stanley William Hayter’s Atelier 17, but his practice also included a life-long association with his artistic training in Santiniketan, friendship with J. Krishnamurthy and solidarities for the movements of independence in Algeria and Palestine. Jean Bhownagary set up the National Films Division with an aim to direct documentaries. He invited artists such as Tyeb Mehta, M.F. Husain and Akbar Padamsee to work with film. Besides these initiatives, he also excelled as a magician, ceramicist, sculptor, painter and printmaker. Keeping in mind the versatility of these figures, the writer wishes to place them within a larger alternative notion of “conceptualism”: one that cannot be boxed within the Western aesthetic term and that showcases a lived experience of experimentation rooted in political belief.

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Portrait of a Paradox: Novera
Raza, Nada
Vol. 69 No. 1, September–December 2017, pp. 90–97

Novera Ahmed, originally from Bengal, died in France in 2015. Nada Raza first encountered the artist through a single work that was displayed in the Lahore living room of Salima Hashmi. Raza chose to pursue her mysterious identity and story, researching in Dhaka (where Ahmed has been claimed as a national icon) and later interacting with Ahmed’s widower in their home near Giverny. How does one recuperate the practice of a female artist whose attempts to forge an independent and individual voice were thwarted by patriarchy, violent new nationalisms, lost shipments of major works and finally a car accident which left her crippled? Raza tries to address the paradox of a figure who despite her widespread travels and interactions (in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Southeast Asia and Europe) and her contributions to the fields of experimental sculpture remained largely on the fringes of the subcontinent’s art histories.

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Exhibition Report: Indian Jewels Illuminate the Grand Palais
Trouilloud, Julia
Vol. 69 No. 1, September–December 2017, pp. 98–100

The lesser-known history of Indo-French jewellery has been explored in the exhibition “From the Great Mughals to the Maharajas: Jewels from the Al Thani Collection”, on display at the Grand Palais between March 29 and June 5, 2017. Using Indian stones brought by the maharajas, famous French designers such as Cartier, Boucheron, Mellerio or Chaumet adapted traditional Indian motifs and accessories to the Art Deco style to please their new Indian clientele. Enthused by a vogue for the exotic, the Parisian elite of the 1920s and 1930s started commissioning extravagant jewellery sets inspired by the ones of the maharajas. A dozen of these magnificent pieces that were presented at the show testify to the birth of this new hybrid aesthetic and the creative power of cultural exchanges.

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