Gentlemen connoisseurs and capitalists
Modern British imperial identity in the 1903 Delhi durbar’s exhibition of Indian art
in Cultural identities and the aesthetics of Britishness
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This chapter analyses the exhibition of Indian art as a 'thick' cultural experience, to use Clifford Geertz's word, explore its multiple and contradictory representations of British imperial identity. George Curzon insisted on distinct boundaries between Indian and British cultural identities. Curzon's own pose as gentlemanly capitalist combined with the exhibition's purpose to exonerate Britain of its role in the decline of Indian art production. The notion of gentleman capitalists, made it impossible to seal off Indian culture from global market demands and modern technologies. The 1903 exhibition had special importance for Curzon. The exhibition defined British and Indian imperial identities as complementary and oppositional: Indians, artisanal and local; British, technologically advanced and global. The press in India was a vociferous critic of Curzon's policies, the durbar, and the exhibition, identifying Curzon with an intention to push India backwards rather than forwards.

Editor: Dana Arnold


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