This thesis seeks to contextualize Kanu Desai’s Mirabai: Ten Pictures from the Life of India’s Greatest Poetess of the Past, a collection of lithographs originally produced in the 1930’s with a reprint in 1943. In order to analyze this work, three interconnected lenses are used: (1) Desai’s artistic upbringing and apprenticeship under Ravishankar Raval in Ahmedabad and Nandalal Bose in Santiniketan, (2) the socio-political environment in which these works were produced, and (3) the market for the product both locally and abroad. Through these methods, This paper will illustrate how Desai’s folio demonstrates his mastery of the Santiniketan credo and the influence of pivotal anti-colonial freedom fighters such as Mahatma Gandhi; in addition to this, it also represents a unique engagement with the growing theosophist audience abroad. In the end, this research hopes to establish a new vein within mid-20th century modern Indian art scholarship, opening it up to archival studies into this otherwise unknown Gujarati artist.
Aarti is a senior in the Rutgers Honors College double majoring in Art History and Computer Science. Her research interests include south Asian art and publicly-circulated media. Born and raised in New York, she enjoys knitting, solving crossword puzzles, and making art in her free time. In addition to this, she also enjoyed learning new languages and appreciated the opportunity to study in Paris during her Junior year.