As a memorial tribute to Dr. Alvin O. Bellak (1928-2004), the late psychologist, Trustee, and collector of Indian art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art will present 20 exemplary paintings from the collection that bears his name from October 9, 2004, to mid-April 2005.
Focusing upon the artistic achievements of the Rajput courts of India from the 17th to 19th century, the paintings in Masterpieces of Indian Painting from the Alvin O. Bellak Collection, A Tribute illustrate themes of pious devotion, poetic love, the play of the Hindu gods, and the pleasures and intrigues of court life. Drawn from Dr. Bellak’s bequest of 88 paintings, the richly hued works will be on view in the William P. Wood Gallery (second floor). They reflect the remarkable stylistic developments that emerged in the kingdoms of Northern India under the control of the Hindu families known as Rajput ("sons of kings"). The installation offers a rare chance to see these exquisite paintings, often called Indian "miniatures," whose sensitivity to light allows for them to be displayed only infrequently.
"Dr. Bellak’s gift to the Museum, and thereby to future generations of the public, reveals his remarkable achievement as a collector of Indian art, and there is no better way to pay homage to his generosity than by sharing his love of these beautiful paintings with our visitors," said Anne d’Harnoncourt, Director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Darielle Mason, the Stella Kramrisch Curator of Indian and Himalayan Art at the Museum who organized the installation, noted: "These intimate works of art capture high drama and tender human emotion with astonishing clarity and minute detail. The collection as a whole forms a complete picture of India’s miniature painting traditions, which was Dr. Bellak’s intention and ultimate achievement."
Dr. Bellak, who died July 23, 2004, was a longtime Philadelphia resident who received his Ph.D. in clinical psychology at The Pennsylvania State University and had a distinguished corporate career as a partner with the Hay Group. After coming across a work that captured his eye in a Pakistani rug shop on Philadelphia’s Antique Row in the 1970s, Dr. Bellak began to assemble in earnest what would eventually become one of the finest private collections of Indian paintings in the world. He became a Trustee of the Museum in 1995 and announced his intention to leave his collection to the Museum in 2001. In that year, the Museum presented the entire collection for the acclaimed exhibition, Intimate Worlds: Indian Painting from the Alvin O. Bellak Collection, which was accompanied by a scholarly catalogue and traveled to the Seattle Art Museum and The Frist Center for the Visual Arts. With Dr. Bellak’s bequest, the Museum has been placed among the top public collections of Indian miniature paintings in the United States.
About the Alvin O. Bellak Collection
The Alvin O. Bellak Collection comprises 88 superb paintings and drawings that cover 400 years of India’s artistic history, from the introduction of papermaking techniques by the Muslims in the late-14th century to the introduction of photography under the British Raj in the late 1800s. Painted on paper with vivid watercolors, the works in the collection are often highlighted with gold and polished to a brilliant luster. Created for Hindu, Jain, and Muslim patrons, many began as pages for larger illustrated manuscripts. Because most were created in royal painting workshops, they provide an incomparable window onto the idylls and intricacies of daily life at court. Through delicate details and lively stories, each painting evokes an intimate world of enchantment and delight.