World’s Earliest Buddhist Paintings were Unseen
The earliest Buddhist paintings of the world are of the 2nd century BCE. Shrouded in the darkness of the Ajanta caves, these did not get the attention of the world, despite their very sophisticated quality. They could hardly be seen owing to much early 20th century graffiti on them. This exhibition throws a magical light which shows these paintings for the first time, through Prof. Behl’s photography in darkness and subsequent removal of graffiti by painstaking digital restoration.
Lost Ancient Art Documented through Low-light Photography!
India has a truly great tradition of ancient painting which has not been known to the world. This is because the remnants of ancient painting are in dark interiors of caves and temples and are extremely damaged.
Prof. Behl had the privilege of photographing this ancient treasure of art with his pioneering technique of low-light photography, between 25 and 30 years ago. In 1991, the then Director General of the Archeological Survey of India wrote to Behl saying “You have conquered the darkness”!
Considerable Damage in Recent Decades
Subsequent to his photography, there has been considerable further deterioration and many of the ancient paintings have been lost to the world.
As a labour of love, Prof. Behl has digitally restored much of the damage of the masterpiece paintings. They can now be seen nearer to their original glory.
Painstaking Care of Leading Art: Historian
Benoy K Behl is the leading art historian of ancient Indian murals, whose landmark book ‘The Ajanta Caves’ has spread the knowledge of this art worldwide. He carried out the digital restoration with painstaking care and with his deep understanding of ancient murals.
Lost Tradition of Art Revealed
Earliest Surviving Hindu Painting
The early photography carried out in darkness and the sensitive digital restoration present a glorious tradition of art previously lost to the world!
Please see ‘Queen and Attendants’, which has been revealed through Prof. Behl’s photography in 2001 and his subsequent careful digital restoration. This is a mural in Cave 3, Badami, 6th century CE. National Geographic Magazine, when they were doing a major story about his work in 2008, could hardly see even those paintings which he had seen and photographed in 2001. Therefore, this photography and restoration is of fundamental importance in the documentation of the tradition of Indian paintings.
New Edition ‘The Ajanta Caves’, Thames & Hudson
Re-writing of History of Ancient Painting
‘The Ajanta Caves’, T&H, London & New York, is among the best-selling books on Indian art history in the world. It has been in print for over 25 years and the new edition carries the landmark digital restoration. Through its many reprints, the book has taken the art of Ajanta around the world. It is hoped that this new edition, with the digital restoration also, will help to establish the paintings of Ajanta as among the finest art of humankind.