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Henry Luce Foundation Grant to Advance Scholarship on Tibetan Painting Awarded to Rubin Museum
The Ngor Abbot Sanggye Sengge as Lineal Guru of the Path with the Fruit, Tibet; 1580s-1590s. Distemper on cotton, 48 x 26 in. Rubin Museum of Art, F1996.26.1 (HAR 493)

NEW YORK, NY.- With the support of a three-year, $270,000 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation, Dr. David Jackson—the world’s foremost scholar of Tibetan Buddhist painting and a consulting curator for the Rubin Museum—will publish a new series of exhibition catalogues on Tibetan thangka paintings drawn primarily from the museum’s collection. This is the second grant awarded to the Rubin Museum from the foundation; in 2007 the foundation supported the exhibition Bon: The Magic Word and its catalogue.

Chief Curator of the Rubin Museum of Art Jan van Alphen expressed the museum’s gratitude to the Henry Luce Foundation for its commitment to Asian art historical scholarship saying, “The foundation’s continued support of the museum’s efforts to share ground-breaking research on the art and culture of Tibet will lead to greater appreciation for, and understanding and preservation of, an endangered cultural heritage.”

The Rubin Museum, located in Manhattan, is recognized as the premier museum in the West showcasing the art of the Himalayas and the surrounding regions. The museum has been cited by critics and visitors for its innovative cross-cultural exhibitions, diverse programming, and commitment to education.

Dr. Jackson’s contributions to art history are highly prized among academic communities around the world. Not since Giuseppe Tucci, author of Tibetan Painted Scrolls (1949) and considered the father of Tibetan art history, has there been new, enlightening scholarship in the field. With the publication of Jackson’s seminal research, A History of Tibetan Painting: The Great Tibetan Painters and Their Traditions (Vienna) in 1996, a new scholarly paradigm was set forth for studying painting based on primary Tibetan sources. Jackson’s book is one of the only works produced in the West on the history of Tibetan art considered important enough to be translated into Chinese and Japanese.

After 35 years of research and mastery of the Tibetan language, Dr. Jackson is crafting this series of eight catalogues and exhibitions as an extensive scholarly resource on Tibetan painting and its historical significance. In each successive volume, he shares some of the most interesting and ground-breaking discoveries about Tibetan art history, style, and method. Drawing primarily from the thangka collection of the Rubin Museum of Art, most catalogues will delve into a different genre or school of Tibetan painting, both prominent and little known. The catalogues will present crucial aspects of art historical methodology, citing structure, provenance, and iconography.

Within the series, approximately 360 works of art will be explored, grouped under eight thematic rubrics. Jackson’s first two titles in the series have been published and were the subjects of exhibitions at the Rubin Museum of Art where Dr. Jackson has been a Consulting Curator since 2007: Painter and Patron: Situ Panchen and the Revival of the Encampment Style (2009) and The Nepalese Legacy in Tibetan Painting (2010).

The grant will provide for the completion of the next three volumes by Dr. Jackson in the eightvolume series:

Mirror of the Buddha: Early Painted Portraits from Tibet (2011)
This catalogue will present painted portraits of early Tibetan masters, mainly from the Taklung and Drigung Kagyu schools in the 13th and 14th centuries. In addition, key paintings from the Kadam, Sakya and Geluk schools will be introduced, clarifying the Pala and Beri styles – the two classic Indic styles of Tibet. Jackson will articulate the methods for dating Tibetan paintings using primary sources, in particular lineage structure. His competence with the Tibetan language will allow him to examine previously unexploited sources, such as written descriptions of the earliest portraits of the Kadam and Drigung patriarchs. Christian Luczanits, another respected scholar in the field and a curator at the Rubin Museum of Art, will also contribute an essay. The related exhibition will be on view at the Rubin Museum of Art October 21, 2011 – March 5, 2012.

The Place of Provenance: Regional Styles in Tibetan Painting (2012)
Jackson addresses the difficulty in identifying the provenances of Tibetan painting. The exhibition and catalogue will present the painting styles most closely associated with the five traditional provinces of Tibet, each home to a prevailing local style. The catalogue will document the main provincial styles and, for the first time, several minor styles that coexisted in each province. It will also suggest simple ways to reliably assign provenance. Noted expert, Rob Linrothe, will also contribute an essay on one of the provincial styles. Exhibition dates TBD.

Exploring the Styles of Drigung (2013)
Based at their seat in central Tibet, the lamas of the Drigung Kagyu school commissioned some of the most impressive and varied works of art in the course of their eight centuries of history. Jackson will survey the artistic riches of the school, beginning with the earliest survivals in the Pala style. The Drigung lamas took a stylistically unexpected turn in the 17th century when they introduced the rare Khyenri style to the Drigung artists, which Jackson will also discuss. In the final chapter, Jackson will trace the development in the 18th century of the school’s distinctive Drigung (Driri) style which is little known today. The catalogue will investigate in more detail the methods for dating paintings, utilizing several previously overlooked written sources on Drigung art, both ancient and modern. Exhibition dates TBD.

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