Milo Cleveland Beach
An art historian and curator, Milo Cleveland Beach has produced extensive scholarship on Mughal and Rajput painting, especially during the reigns of Mughal emperors Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan. Beach has been the director of the Arthur M Sackler Gallery and the Freer Gallery of Art, Washington DC, and curator at Fogg Museum of Art and the Museum of Fine Art, Boston.
Beach was born in Rochester, New York and went on to study at Harvard University, where he completed his bachelor of arts and doctoral studies in 1962 and 1969, respectively. During this time, he also served as acting curator for Asian art at the Museum of Fine Arts (1962–64) and as an assistant curator at the Fogg Museum of Art (1967–69). After his graduation, he joined Williams College, Massachusetts as a professor in the department of art history, where he served for fifteen years, later becoming the chair of the department. Beach resigned his position in 1984 to help establish the Arthur M Sackler Gallery in 1987 and to organise an extensive and cohesive collection of Asian art loaned from the royal collections of England, Turkey and Japan, the Hermitage Museum in Leningrad and the government of China, as well as other institutional and private collections. During this period, he also oversaw the large-scale renovation of the Freer Gallery. He retired from his directorship and curatorial engagements in 2001 to focus on his research and writing.
Beach’s most notable contribution has been in the area of Islamic art. Chief among his accomplishments was his detailed study of the manuscript Padshahnama (1656–57) from the Royal Windsor Collection, which culminated in the exhibition King of the World: A Mughal Manuscript from the Royal Library held in seven cities between 1997 and 1998. Beach also worked on other significant manuscripts, such as the Muraqqa-i-Gulshan (1599–1609), an album of works believed to have been commissioned by the emperors Akbar (1542–1605) and Jahangir (1569–1627) and completed under emperor Shah Jahan (1592–1666). Beach’s scholarship highlighted the multicultural sources within the works that shed light on the nature of connoisseurship and art patronage in Jahangir’s workshops.
His primary areas of interest are the practices of royal patronage and the functioning of imperial karkhanas (workshops); the intercultural exchanges between the Mughal and Rajput painting traditions; and important artists and subjects of imperial painting. He also extensively studied and documented the murals of Ajanta and wall paintings of Bundi. He has authored several books on Mughal and Rajput painting, including The Grand Mogul: Imperial Painting in India, 1600–60 (1978), The Imperial Image: Paintings from the Mughal Court (1981), Early Mughal Painting (1987, 2013), Mughal and Rajput Painting (1992), and Kings of the World: A Mughal Manuscript from the Royal Library (1997). Beach made a foray into fiction with Adventures of Rama (1983), which is retelling of the Indian epic Ramayana, illustrated by paintings from a sixteenth-century Persian manuscript translating the same. He has also written essays on the works of the Mughal artists Daswanth, Kesu Das and Rajput painters Bagta and Chokha, as well as on Pahari paintings and art objects in the Sackler Gallery’s collection.
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