Ink, Silk, and Gold: Islamic Treasures from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, on display through September 3, 2017, features masterpieces of Islamic art spanning centuries, media, and Islamic tradition. The exhibition features more than 50 items and panels of text, giving the viewer an engrossing background on Islamic history. This is part of a series of blogs that will give you context to the items in the exhibition.
Until recently, it has been believed that the production of Islamic art ceased around the year 1800; it has become apparent that it has continued to evolve into the 19th century and the modern age, with contemporary artists making connections to Islamic artistic traditions.
The 19th Century
Though the Ottoman Empire lasted until the early 20th century, the 18th and 19th centuries saw the weakening of the Ottoman dynasty’s power. As movements for Turkish nationalism emerged, the powers of the Mughals in India also declined, and the dynasty’s end came in 1858 when the subcontinent was absorbed into the British empire.
Although early modern empires influenced artistic production, increased contact with the West brought trends from Europe that inspired artists to explore new techniques and media.
Modern and Contemporary Art
The great political and societal upheavals of earlier centuries had a dramatic impact on Islamic art, leading to new forms of art and forums of production, exchange, and appreciation. In the 1900s, Middle Eastern artists adapted to a whirlwind of change that included the end of European colonialism and the birth of many nations.
Many artists with roots in the Islamic world cultivated responses to these changes by developing forms of abstract and modern art, while commenting on Islamic arts of the past. Some artists who personally identify with the Islamic world choose to work with styles, techniques, and subjects who have little to do with Islamic art, but are international. Others use international styles or artistic traditions from their region of origin.