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Unknown photographer and artist, Wife of the Rana of Nepal, gelatin silver print and oil painting, 1900s. Alkazi Collection of Photography.

LONDON.- The Brunei Gallery, SOAS, presents Painted Photographs: Colored Portraiture in India from the Alkazi Collection of Photography, on view through September 27, 2008. This exhibition presents a unique Indian Photographic form: the painted photograph. This technique, which emerged during the second half of the 19th century, made an extensive use of colour tinting on images.

The narrative paintings of the Ajanta Caves in Western India (2 BC – 8 AD) mark India’s first encounter with exquisitely coloured frescoes. Centuries later, Mughal miniature paintings were significant precursors to the development of the painted photograph. Here, lay the foundations for several innovative art forms, among which painted photographs are perhaps the most hybrid and contemporary example.

Photography reached India in 1840, almost 200 years after the Mughals. The advancement in media and industry enabled the artists to swiftly engage with the new technical medium. The range of exhibits here includes works from several royal principalities located between North and Central India, primarily Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Gujarat. What lies between the photograph and the observer today are layers of history carefully managed on the surface of the image. Painted photographs also testify to the development of an intimate relationship between artist, photographer and patron.

The exhibition includes portraits of Indian rulers standing against dramatic and theatrical backdrops; studio and court images organised thematically. Ranging from aspects of kingship to modes of art practice, exploring the period of the British Raj from the 1860’s to the 1930’s.

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Unknown photographer and artist, Family portrait, gelatin silver print and oil painting, 1900s-20s. Alkazi Collection of Photography