IRWIN, John Conran

IRWIN, John Conran. Madras 5.8.1917 — 1997. British Art Historian of India. Son of Jihn Williamson I., a coffee planter, and Ruth Leefe Robinson, soon came to England with father’s retirement and grew up in Devon and London. Worked as journalist and theatre critic. From 1939 in the army, in 1942 lamed in an motor cycle accident and sent 1943 to India, where he served in the Bengal Famine Relief Fund. Now interested in Indian art. In 1945 returned and joined the Indian Section of Victoria and Albert Museum, London as Assistant Keeper, from 1959 Keeper. In retirement living in Petersfield, Hants. In 1985 Visiting Professor of the History of Indian Art at the University of Michigan, Died after long illness.

Concentrated on textile history, in later years also on the symbolism of Aśokan pillars and stūpas. Also worked on Indian sculpture. Kept close contact with Indian colleagues and visited India several times.

Publications: a number of minor articles on Indian art since 1944.

– “The shawls of Kashmir”, Country Life Annual. L. 1950, 184-193; “The Norwich Shawl”, ibid. 1954, 136-142; “Indo-Portuguese embroideries of Bengal”, Arts and Letters. Jnl of the Royal India, Pak. & Ceylon Soc. 26, 1952, 1-9; “Reflections on Indo-Portuguese art”, Burlington Magazine 97, 1955, 386-388.

– “Late Mauryan and early Sunga ring-stones”, JRAS 1951, 1-3; “Some unknown Gupta sculptures from Sultanganj”, Art. As. 17, 1954, 34-38; “The Sañchi Torso”, Indologen-Tagung 1971, 210-223 & JISOA 6, 1975, 631-643.

Shawls: a study in Indo-European influences. L. 1955, 2nd abr. & rev. ed. The Kashmir Shawl. L. 1974; The Girdlers Carpet. L. 1962.

– “Indian textile trade in the 17th century, Part. 1. Western India”, Journal of Indian Textile history 1, Ahmedabad 1955, 5-33; “… Part 2. Coromandel Coast”, ibid. 2, 1956, 24-40; “… Part 3. Bengal”, ibid. 3, 1957, 59-74; “… 4. Foreign influences”, ibid. 1-10.

– “Golconda cotton paintings of the early 17th century”, Lalit Kala 1959, 11-48.

– “Towards a humanist appreciation of Indian art”, Festschrift in honour of Kunwar Mohammad Ashraf. Berlin 1966, 325-342.

with V. Murphy: Batiks. Large Picture Book 28. L. 1969.

with K. B. Brett: Origins of Chintz. L. & Toronto 1970.

with M. Hall: Historic textiles of India at the Calico Museum, Ahmedabad. 1. Indian Painted and Printed Fabrics. 2. Indian embroideries. Ahmedabad 1971-73.

– “Aśokan Pillars: a reassessment of the evidence”, Burlington Magazine 115, 1973, 706-720 & 116, 1974, 712-727 & 117, 1975, 631-643 & 118, 1976, 734-753; “The Prayaga Bull-pillar: another pre-Aśokan monument”, SAA 1979. B. 1981; “The Ancient Pillar-cult at Prayāga (Allahabad): its pre-Aśokan Origins”, JRAS 1983, 253-280; “The Lat Brairo at Benares (Varanasi): another pre-Aśokan monument?”, ZDMG 133, 1983, 321-352; “The Heliodorus Pillar; a fresh appraisal”, Art and Arch. Research Papers 6, 1974, 1-13 & rev. in Puratattva 8, 1975-76 (1978).

– “The Stupa and the Cosmic Axis: the archaeological evidence”, SAA 1977. Naples 1979, 799-845; “The axial symbolism of the early stupa: an exegesis”, Dallapiccola et al. (edd.), The Stupa, its religious, historical and arch. significance. Heidelberg 1980, 12-36; “The Mystery of the (Future) Buddha’s First Worlds”, AION 41, 1981, 622-660, 9 pl.; “The Sacred Anthill and the Cult of the Primordial Mound”, Hist. of Rel. 21, 1982, 339-360.

Sources: Select bibliography 1944–84 in OvH-Archives; M. Hall in http://ignca.nic.in/nl_01302.htm with photo.

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