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RUPERT ARROWSMITH is a British author, art historian, and occasional poet who currently resides in Myanmar (Burma). He has spent most of his adult life living in Asia, especially Myanmar, Japan, India and Singapore, though he grew up in the Seychelles, Kenya, and Cornwall in the south-west of England. His father was a sea captain, hence all the moving around, and he was largely home-schooled. He holds a doctorate from Christ Church college of the University of Oxford, and is an honorary fellow of University College London.
Dr Arrowsmith is a practicing Buddhist of the Theravada school and has twice been ordained as a Buddhist monk, taking a strict vow of silence and meditating in isolation in a forest monastery in Myanmar for ninety days (see Writing).
He is the author of numerous articles and two books on the nature of intercultural exchange between the West and Asia, Africa and the cultures of the Pacific, especially in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and has a special interest in the hidden narratives and ideologies of museums. These were explored in his Oxford University Press volume Modernism and the Museum, which broke controversial new ground in exposing the profound debts of Modernist sculptors Jacob Epstein, Eric Gill, and Henri Gaudier-Brzeska especially to Indian and African art, and looked for the first time with a trained global art historian’s eye at the impact of Japanese, Chinese and Korean art on poets connected with the Imagist movement, especially Ezra Pound, Richard Aldington, H.D., and T.E. Hulme (see Writing).
When the manuscript of poet and literary critic William Empson’s only unpublished book The Face of the Buddha was discovered after sixty years presumed lost or destroyed, Dr Arrowsmith was invited as an author with simultaneous expertise in Buddhist art history and English literature to edit it for Oxford University Press and to provide a substantial introduction and footnotes. These were highly acclaimed when the book was published in 2016 along with more than a hundred illustrations, many in colour, which were also curated by Arrowsmith, with The Telegraph referring to the volume as “one of the books of the year” (see Writing).
Arrowsmith is an occasional poet, and was invited to Bhutan in 2015 to read his poem about Buddhism The Way to Bhutan to open the country’s national literary festival and to present a copy of it to the festival’s patron, the Royal Queen Mother (see Writing).
He is himself a trustee and member of the International Board of Myanmar’s Irrawaddy Literary Festival Charitable Trust, and is also involved with the festival’s new Myanmar Board in the capacity of International Consultant.
He is currently completing a new book about Asia, which will be published next year.
Arrowsmith at Chanmyay Yeiktha Monastery, Myanmar, in 2015