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About Coomaraswamy

Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy (18771947)

Ananda Coomaraswamy, born in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) to a Ceylonese father and an English mother, was educated in England. Upon his graduation from University College, London, in 1900 with a degree in geology and botany, he moved to Ceylon, where he worked and earned a PhD in mineralogy, and studied and collected Sinhalese art. He returned to London in 1906, where his conception of Indian art and modernity shared much with the flourishing Arts and Crafts movement and where modern artists began to find much of value in his thought. When he moved to Boston in 1917 to become the first Keeper of Indian art at the Museum of Fine Arts, his collection became the core of the first significant collection of Indian art in America. In 1933, he took up the position of Fellow for Research in Indian, Persian, and Mohammedan art at the MFA, a position he held until his death in 1947. 

Throughout his career, Coomaraswamy published frequently for the Museum of Fine Arts and in The Art Bulletin; he wrote more than thirty books on a broad range of subjects. His work on art was unique for encompassing multiple cultural traditions and periods from antiquity and the Middle Ages to the present. His wrote on museology and against industrialization and colonialism, and advocated for craft traditions. This breadth of knowledge, concern, and engagement may be best known from his book Christian and Oriental Philosophy of Art, but is also very much in evidence in the article featured here, “Ornament,” in which he draws upon a range of terms in Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, and English in a discussion meant to engage art historians in academia, teachers of art appreciation, and designers of ornament. Coomaraswamy remains well known as a philosopher and public intellectual, and his legacy remains strong in a surprising number of fields, as attested, for example, by continuing republication and ongoing study of his work. In 2010, two sessions of the CAA Annual Conference were devoted to Coomaraswamy's legacy and influence on twentieth-century art. His papers are held by Princeton University, in the Ananda K. Coomaraswamy Papers 1903–1970, which include the Stella Bloch Papers relating to Ananda K. Coomaraswamy 18901930. (Bloch, a dancer, artist, and ethnographer, worked and published with Coomaraswamy, and was married to him from 1922 to 1930.)


ANANDA COOMARASWAMY Publications in The Art Bulletin

Coomaraswamy began to publish articles in the earliest issues of The Art Bulletin, and became a frequent contributor of articles, reviews, notes, and letters. The inclusive character of the journal during its early years allowed Coomaraswamy to publish comparative studies as well as the results of his more focused research. For a fuller discussion of his art-historical work, see the entry for Coomaraswamy in The Dictionary of Art Historians. For a more comprehensive list of Coomaraswamy’s publications, see James S. Crouch, A Bibliography of Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy (New Delhi: Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, 2002).

The Significance of Oriental Art (pdf)
1919 vol. 2, no. 1

The Appreciation of Art
1923 vol. 6, no. 2 (pdf)

The Origin of the Buddha Image (pdf)
1927 vol. 9, no. 4

The Tree of Jesse and Indian Parallels or Sources (pdf)
1929 vol. 11, no. 2

Mediaeval Aesthetic: I. Dionysius the Pseudo-Aeropagite, and Ulrich Engelberti of Strassburg (pdf)
1935 vol. 17, no. 1

Review Die ionische Säule, Bauform oder Symbol? by E. ANDRAE; Greek Geometric Art, its Symbolism and its Origin by A. ROES (pdf)
1935 vol. 17, no. 1

The Virgin Suckling St. Bernard (Note on MILLARD MEISS The Madonna of Humility in The Art Bulletin 1936 vol. 18, no. 4) (pdf)
1937 vol. 19, no. 2

Mediaeval Aesthetic: II. St. Thomas Aquinas on Dionysius, and a Note on the Relation of Beauty to Truth (pdf)
1938 vol. 20, no. 1

Note on Review by RICHARD FLORSHEIM of Is Art a Superstition or a Way of Life? By Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, in The Art Bulletin, XX, p. 126 f. (pdf)
1938 vol. 20, no. 4

Review Shaker Furniture by EDWARD DEMING ANDREWS and FAITH ANDREWS; Consider the Lilies How They Grow; An Interpretation of the Symbolism of Pennsylvania German Art by JOHN JOSEPH STOUDT; Handicrafts of the Southern Highlands by ALLEN H. EATON; Art and Life in New Guinea by RAYMOND FIRTH; L'Art des Iles Marquises by WILLOWDEAN C. HANDY and E. S. CRAIGHILL HANDY; The Art of Enjoying Art by A. PHILIP MACMAHON (pdf)
1939 vol. 21, no. 2

Note on the Iconography of the Cock on the Column (pdf)
1939 vol. 21, no. 4

Review Frühchinesische Bronzen und Kulturdarstellungen by CARL HENTZE; Carved Jade of Ancient China by A. Salmony (pdf)
1940 vol. 22, no. 1

Letter to the Editor (pdf)
1941 vol. 23, no. 2

An Ivory Casket from Southern India (pdf)
1941 vol. 23, no. 3 

Review A Mathematician's Apology by G. H. HARDY (pdf)
1941 vol. 23, no. 4

Letter to the Editor
1942 vol. 24, no. 4 (pdf)

Review Persian Miniatures in the Fogg Museum of Art by ERIC SCHROEDER (pdf)
1943 vol. 25, no. 4
Reviews and significant citations of work by ANANDA COOMARASWAMY in The Art Bulletin

Books for the College Art Library (pdf)
1920 vol. 3, No. 1

Review by M. S. DIMAND of Catalogue of the Indian Collections in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston by ANANDA K. COOMARASWAMY; Portfolio of Indian Art by ANANDA K. COOMARASWAMY (pdf)
1924 vol. 7, No. 1

E. LOUISE LUCAS, List of Books for a College Art Library (pdf)
1929 vol. 11, no. 3 

Review by THOMAS MUNRO, The Transformation of Nature in Art (pdf)
1934 vol. 16, no. 4 

Review by Helen B. CHAPIN, Elements of Buddhist Iconography by ANANDA K. COOMARASWAMY (pdf)
1935 vol. 17, no. 4

Review by RICHARD FLORSHEIM Is Art a Superstition or a Way of Life? by ANANDA K. COOMARASWAMY (pdf)
1938 vol. 20, no. 1

Review by LUDWIG BACHHOFER The Wall-paintings of India, Central Asia, and Ceylon. A Comparative Study, with an Introductory Essay on the Nature of Buddhist Art by ANANDA K. COOMARASWAMY by BENJAMIN ROWLAND (pdf)
1938 vol. 20, no. 2

Review by KATHARINE E. GILBERT, Why Exhibit Works of Art? (pdf)
1948, vol. 30, no. 2

1979 vol. 61, no. 3

SHEILA S. BLAIR AND JONATHAN M. BLOOM The Mirage of Islamic Art: Reflections on the Study of an Unwieldy Field (pdf)
2003 vol. 85, no. 1
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