Thursday, December 6, 2012

Think Pink

Most of the autumnal golds and tangerines have faded to paper-bag-brown.  And neighbors are starting to hang their boxwood wreaths.  But I can’t stop thinking about pink!
I think Benjamin Moore's Minstrel Heart (1297) is one of the prettiest pinks known to man.
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to visit two amazing exhibits: Maharaja: The Splendors of India’s Great Kings at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and Worlds Within Worlds: Imperial Painting from India and Iran at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.  In fact, I visited them several times each.

The two exhibitions focused on royal patronage of the arts in India.  For hundreds of years, art, ritual and pageantry were interwoven with the identity, both personal and imperial, of India’s rulers and those close to them.  Paintings chronicled and idealized.  Beautifully-crafted and bejeweled artifacts legitimized regal authority.

Maharaja: The Splendors of India’s Great Kings was organized by the Victoria and Albert Museum, from their huge Southeast Asian collection, and broadly addressed the changing roles of maharajas, through shifts in power of India’s political and ethnic dynasties and, of course, British rule, from the early-18th century until India’s independence in 1947.  By embracing tradition, and innovation, these last kings encouraged the creation of stunning paintings, textiles, metal goods and jewelry.
Detail of Allegorical Representation of Emperor Jahangir and Shah Abbas of Persia
(from the St. Petersburg Album), ca. 1618
Decorative margins, not seen in this detail, were added later in 1747-48.
Opaque watercolor, ink, silver and gold on paper
from the Smithsonian's Freer and Arthur M. Sackler Galleries
Worlds Within Worlds: Imperial Painting from India and Iran dealt with portraits, manuscripts and historical paintings of the Mughal Empire.  Mughal rulers controlled most of southwest Asia, India and the rest of the subcontinent, from the 16th until the mid-19th century, and recognized the power of art to reinforce their sovereignty, both home and abroad, justify their political ambitions, build alliances and foster a sense of oneness within their vast empire.

At the height of their influence, emperors Akbar (1556-1605), Jahangir (1605-1627), and Shah Jahan (1627-1658) sponsored literary and academic endeavors, supported ateliers and commissioned monumental buildings, including the Taj Mahal, as advocates for a consciously new and identifiable Mughal style.

Both exhibitions confirmed that so many Indian rulers of the past, whether they actually ruled or not, were extremely savvy patrons of the arts.  Through the centuries, they understood the role of art as propaganda – to define and promote ideals of beauty and piety and kingliness – and to acknowledge India’s diversity of cultures and religions.  It was also a way to develop local economies and make sense of new customs that were continually being introduced through travel and trade.  They appreciated fine craftsmanship and were genuinely fascinated with artistic styles from other places, including Europe.

But what was the most prevalent aspect of each exhibit?  Pink, of course!

Despite the dimmed lighting and hushed crowds, the museum galleries seemed to glow pink, like the inside of a conch shell… a pink cocoon, warm and joyful.  The paintings, in particular, whether majestic
Portrait of Maharana Amar Singh
ca. 1700
Opaque watercolor on cotton cloth
from the Victoria and Albert Museum
or intimate
Raja Bhup Singh with a Rani Under a Quilt
ca. 1800
Opaque watercolor on paper
from the Victoria and Albert Museum
or epic,
Umar Disguised as the Surgeon Mazmahil Arrives before the Castle of Antali
(from a Hamzanama)
ca. 1570
Opaque watercolor, ink and gold on cotton cloth
from the Smithsonian's Freer and Arthur M. Sackler Galleries
appeared to be illuminated from within with so many different shades of pink.

I’ve always been drawn to these coral-y, melon-y, sunshine-y pinks.
Opal (891) and
Ambrosia (893) are barely pink but stand out in the evening sky when tinged with a bit of
Polka Dot Pink (004).
These three pink paints, and the others following, are all from Benjamin Moore as well.
I wear a lot of pink: pale pink instead of white, ballet pink instead of yellow and even hot pink instead of true red, simply because pink is more flattering on me.  But I tended to think of pink as a rather “decorated”, almost superfluous color until I experienced Maharaja and Worlds Within Worlds.

Now, I look for pink everywhere, especially in hues I could add to my home.  Have you ever noticed?  Pink is the color of autumn flowers.
A bed of blooming Gaura looks like dozens of butterflies in...
Authentic Pink (2006-60),
Hydrangea Flowers (2008-40),
Pink Buff  (1285)
and Soft White (2170-70).

These fall roses are a kaleidoscope of pink.
Sweet Taffy (2086-60)
Florida Pink (1320)
Cactus Flower (1335)
Drop Dead Gorgeous (1329)
Mardi Gras (1342)
Milano Red (1313)

Abelia x 'Mardi Gras' sports
Confetti (1311) on its blossoms
and Old World (2011-40) on its leaves.

A pair of rambunctious Chrysanthemum x grandiflorum, 'Hillside Pink Sheffield, I think,
just finished up blooming after two months.  Don't adjust your television set!
The variations in color are natural.
Antique Coral (1198)
Bridal Pink (2013-70)

The umbels of Sedum x 'Frosty Morn'
Country Pink (2001-60)
Whispy Pink (2005-70)

and 'Autumn Joy', pincushions of pink when in full glory,
have now aged to rosy tan and brown, respectively.
Glamour Pink (2006-40)
Secret Garden (1284)

Butterfly Kisses (902)
Firenze (AF-225)
Even now, in this almost-winter, I can find pink in little doses of abundance.
My blueberry shrubs are ablaze with leaves of ruby-pink.
Even the sprout of new growth shimmers a nearly-blue pink.
Aniline Red (1350)
Pink Begonia (2078-50)

Charming Pink (2075-70) highlights
wispy remains of Muhly Grass.

My Japanese Maple, which smoldered bright orange just a few weeks ago,
is a fringed parasol of faded corals.
Blanched Coral (886)
Conch Shell (052)
Fruit Shake (2088-60)

I discovered Razzle Dazzle (1348)
and Hot Lips (2077-30)
in the stems and veins of Hypericum androsaemum 'Albury Purple'.

While Bayberry (2080-50)
and Peony (2079-30)
capture the velvety remnants of Echinacea purpurea
and hint at the spring to come.

But the leaves of Azalea x 'Christie Lyn' may be my favorite.
Normally creamy butter and grass green, they are currently flushed pink,
as if wearing a little rouge for a Christmas party.
Heartbeat (1319)

Some folks will tell you that pink is passé.  Don’t believe them!  Pink feels safe and a little off-beat; feminine and powerful.  It speaks of exotic places and charming garden walks.  But most of all, pink is inherent to light and living things.  So it can never go out of style.
Doesn't this Magnolia pod look like it's been dipped in the appropriately named
Spring Blossom (2172-70)
and Autumn Red (2087-40)?
If you happened to miss Maharaja: The Splendors of India’s Great Kings and Worlds Within Worlds: Imperial Painting from India and Iran, check out the permanent Asian galleries at the Victoria and Albert Museum or Virginia Museum of Fine Arts for a gorgeous selection of Indian paintings and textiles.  The Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Galleries house some of the finest examples of Mughal painting in the world.  So visit often for rotating displays.

And in the meantime, add a bit of pink to your life.  It will make you happy.

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