Imagining the forest:
a painting on silk from eastern India

13 August – 4 October 2009

Exhibition closed

Room 3

The Asahi Shimbun Displays
Objects in focus

Supported by

This display features a contemporary painting on silk by Indian artist Dinabandhu Mahapatra, depicting trees from the eastern Indian state of Orissa.

Forest imagery features strongly in Indian culture. The trees in the painting are copied from manuscripts in the Orissa State Library.

They hint at the story of the amorous relationship between Krishna and Radha as described in the Gitagovinda, a 12th-century poem. The central figures in the poem are the Hindu deity Krishna and Radha, who was his favourite of the gopis (female cow herders). The poem is still sung today in the temple at Puri, the most important temple in Orissa.

The painting was commissioned during the 1980s as part of an official scheme to enable Indian textile artists to continue practising their skills.

Indian paintings in the British Museum’s extensive collection date from the 12th century AD onwards and the acquisition of this work is part of the ongoing policy to ensure that modern India is represented in the collection.

The Trees of Orissa (detail)

Dinabandhu Mahapatra, The Trees of Orissa (detail), painting on silk, 1980s. Reproduced by permission of the artist.