Date of Submission

Spring 2011

Academic Program

Art History


Patricia Karetzky

Abstract/Artist's Statement

This paper analyzes the image of the female in Indian art and how it has remained viable. Since antiquity women have played an important role in Indian society as a cultural icon. The development of the voluptuous female figure in antiquity, which implied fertility and earthly abundance, came to be associated with auspiciousness and prosperity. The timeless image of the female, from Mother Goddess to Mother India to symbol of the motherland, has never lost its primacy. These early associations with the primal earth remain as she developed into more specific aspects of fertility: tree spirits and river goddesses, embodying various elements of the sacred land. Later these aspects morph into celestial deities, and in the nineteenth century, the universal Indian woman whose image becomes an icon of national pride. The female is just as prevalent in art today as she was in antiquity. Contemporary Indian artists draw upon the traditional female form, both distorting it to offer new narratives of Indian culture and femininity while simultaneously grounding themselves in this strong artistic and cultural heritage. Ultimately this paper will examine how artists have engaged the feminine ideal and for what means. It will consider factors that have affected the development of her visualization and why it has continued to propel such rich images of fertility, nationhood, history and culture for so many thousands of years.

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