Pan-Asianism in Twentieth-Century Indian and Japanese Art: The Resilience of a Shared Artistic and Cultural Heritage


The artistic exchanges of the early twentieth century in India and Japan which defined the trajectory of Asian modernism were made possible due to cultural, commercial and religious crossovers of the first millennium CE and the Edo Period during which Japanese artists and artisans looked to India for inspiration. In 1902 and the ensuing decades, the interactions between intellectuals like Okakura Kakuzō and Rabindranath Tagore, and their close circle of artists, were the direct outcome of the centuries-old common aesthetic heritage of India and Japan - one that resiliently stood the test of time, despite the absence of any direct contact between the two countries. During the Meiji Restoration, as a reaction to the westernisation policies of the newly-formed imperial government it is these shared histories that evoked the possibilities of strengthening Asian solidarity in the minds of Japanese Pan-Asianists. Artists from India and Japan looked upon the cross-fertilisation of Pan-Asian ideals in art as a means to challenge the colonial and western academic aesthetics that had dominated Indian and Meiji art at the turn of the twentieth century. This paper traces the origins of modern artistic connections between the two countries which were the outcome of early twentieth-century engagements in Calcutta and which drew from the resilience of a shared artistic past, in order to make a case for their continued presence in the art of the present-day.

Author Information
Amita Kini-Singh, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, India

Paper Information
Conference: ACAH2022
Stream: Arts Theory and Criticism

This paper is part of the ACAH2022 Conference Proceedings (View)
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