Drawn from Courtly India: The Conley Harris and Howard Truelove Collection

Sunday, December 6, 2015 - 10:00am - Sunday, March 27, 2016 - 5:00pm
2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, PA 19130
United States

Discover how drawings from the royal courts of India reveal an artist’s mastery of form, feeling, and technique.
This exhibition presents an assortment of masterful drawings from the royal courts of northern India.

Carefully and lovingly amassed by artist Conley Harris and architectural designer Howard Truelove, the collection features practice sketches, preparatory drawings, subtly modeled scenes, and lightly colored compositions created between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. With a variety of images at different stages of completion, the collection allows for a fascinating examination of Indian workshop practice. Although the majority served as preparatory material for opaque watercolor paintings, these revelatory drawings are celebrated in this exhibition as accomplished works of art in their own right.
Among the subjects represented are striking examples of portraiture, illustrations of popular religious texts, vivid battle scenes, and explorations of the timeless theme of love. Gentle yet robust lines convey the creative activity of workshop-trained artists with compelling immediacy—from the delicate shading of a ruler’s facial hair to the strong contours of a god’s upstretched arm in battle. Not only do these drawings highlight the artists’ adept handling of medium, they illuminate how a workshop of craftsmen labored in artistic collaboration and demonstrate the ways in which skill was transmitted from one generation to the next.
Drawings reveal what paintings conceal, and the variety of works in this exhibition offers new ways of looking and thinking about the art of Indian drawing. By presenting works at distinct moments during the creative process, Drawn from Courtly India showcases how the confident hand of the Indian draftsman can transform a blank sheet of paper into a multifaceted work of art.
About Collectors Conley Harris and Howard Truelove
Several trips to India inspired painter Conley Harris to collect Rajasthani, Pahari, and Mughal drawings and preparatory studies. His partner, architectural designer W. Howard Truelove (1946–2012), shared Harris’s fascination with line and passion for collecting. Over the years they built a superb collection of Indian drawings, seen here for the first time. The Harris-Truelove Collection addresses an engrossing aspect of South Asia’s art production and forms an extraordinary synergy with the Museum’s world-class collection of opaque watercolors from northern India. The Museum welcomes the opportunity to continue to enrich its collection of art from the Indian subcontinent.
Artist Conley Harris is a former faculty member of the department of art and art history at the University of New Hampshire. A chief scene painter for the Santa Fe Opera House during the 1970s, Harris is now well-known for his lyrical landscapes of New England and the American West. Howard Truelove was a prominent architectural designer and vice president of design at the firm KlingStubbins in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His interior-design work ranged from public spaces in major office buildings to universities and museums.
The couple has been involved with a number of institutions, serving on the visiting committees for the departments of Islamic and Later Indian Art at Harvard University’s Fogg and Arthur M. Sackler Museums, and the Art of Asia, Oceania, and Africa at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Harris uses the works in their collection as a source of inspiration, creating paintings that not only absorb motifs from South Asian and Persian paintings, but also the idea of multiple layers, the palimpsest, of artists’ working sketches.

Event Type: 
Arts & Culture
Arts and Culture
History and Preservation
Visual Arts
Global Region: