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Rupert Arrowsmith


Modernism and the Museum: Asian, African and Pacific Art and the London Avant Garde

Rupert Arrowsmith

Oxford University Press 2011

This book has been described by Amitav Ghosh as "a marvellously rich work."  I wrote it because when I went back to the UK after ten years in Asia I found nobody in Western academia could see the huge number of borrowings artists like Jacob Epstein, Eric Gill, and Henri Gaudier-Brzeska had made especially from Indian and African art, or the debts of poets such as Ezra Pound and the other Imagists especially to Japanese printmaking and sculpture.  This book tries to show that, far from being a Western invention, the movement academics like to refer to as 'Modernism' was really born in Asia, Africa, and the Pacific.  

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The Face of the Buddha

William Empson
edited and introduced

by Rupert Arrowsmith

Oxford University Press 2016

The manuscript of William Empson’s only unpublished work, The Face of the Buddha, was thought to have been irretrievably lost until it was found by accident in a forgotten archive at the British Library.  I was approached to edit it because I had previously published both on Buddhist art and on English Literature.  I was honoured to be able to do so, and spent a couple of years curating its illustrations (more than a hundred monochrome photographs provided by Empson, and writing a long introduction to describe especially the author’s wide-ranging travels to see particular works of Buddhist art with his own eyes.  In 2016, the Telegraph newspaper named The Face of the Buddha “one of the books of the year.”

at OUP  Amazon  Article


Cosmopolitanism and Modernism

London University School

of Advanced Study

Popular one-hour lecture on the nature of cosmopolitan exchange of ideas between cultures with a concentration on the love-triangle between Japan, India and the Modernist poets and sculptors of the West during the early 20th Century.

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Repainting Ajanta:  The Global Impact of the Frescoes and their Copies

Oxford University

Talk given at the Divinity Schools of Oxford University on the various attempts to restore and produce copies of India’s Ajanta frescoes, and the paintings’ influence on Modernism in India, in Japan and in the West.

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The Way to Bhutan

Wasafiri Magazine 31/1

Poem written in honour of the Fourth King of Bhutan to open the Mountain Echoes Literary Festival in Thimphu, Bhutan, in 2015.

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Villanelle: Lament for an Airport

The Mekong Review 6/21 (Nov 2020)

I’ve been interested in difficult forms since working on the Empson book - he was the master of the modern Villanelle, after all.

As Published    in Word


Myanmar Monasteries Offer Bootcamp for the Spirit

USA Today

USA Today broadcast about the second time I was ordained as a monk at a Buddhist monastery in Myanmar.

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Review of Deborah Baker’s The Last Englishmen

The Mekong Review

I don’t normally post book reviews on here, but I had a lot of fun with this one so here it is:

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The Transcultural Roots of Modernism

Modernism / Modernity

Discusses the nature of transcultural aesthetic exchange between Asia and Europe during the early 20th Century and explores the influence of Japanese visual art - especially nishiki-e woodblock prints - on Modernist literature in the West.

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Spring Pictures: The Assymetric Art of William Empson

The Times Literary Supplement

Considers the influence of global Buddhist sculpture and Buddhist thought on William Empson during the early 1930’s, discovering in the process a forgotten painting by Empson himself, and uncovering a globalized love story.

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Jacob Epstein: The Indian Connection

The Burlington Magazine

The essay that was first to uncover Modernist sculptor Jacob Epstein’s immense debts to Indian temple sculpture in the British Museum and London’s V&A.  Much plagiarized and seldom acknowledged by more recent scholars.

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An Indian Renascence and the Rise of Global Modernism

The Burlington Magazine

Explores through previously unpublished letters the painter and cultural networker William Rothenstein’s odyssey around India in 1910-11, wherein he visited the Ajanta Caves, painted with the Tagores, and influenced Modernist sculptors and painters back in London.

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Being a Monk in Myanmar: Personal Transformation in a Changing Country

CNN World Report

Short article about the second time I became a monk in at a Buddhist monastery in Myanmar, in the days when it was very difficult for a Westerner to receive ordination.

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Angelo da Fonseca: Portrait of an Eclectic Genius

Art India Magazine

(cover story)

Critical introduction to the tragically overlooked work of the Goan painter Angelo da Fonseca, who has only recently begun to be recognised as a key artist in the Indian Modernist canon

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A Meeting with Angelo da Fonseca

Mundo Goa (Ed. V Menezes)

A trip to Goa  to give a public lecture became an unexpected adventure involving a forgotten genius, a hidden cache of paintings, sinister priests, the home of a famous author, & a bus journey across Western India - this is the story behind the Art India article on Fonseca.

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Xu Zhen’s Reclining Buddha

NGV Triennale 2017

Critical introduction to the colossal Chinese sculpture by contemporary artist Xu Zhen commissioned by Australia’s national gallery in Melbourne in 2017, with comments on global Buddhist art and the ramifications of Silk Roads ancient and modern.

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Art, Dance & Sex in the Early Twentieth Century

Wasafiri Magazine

(cover story)

Examination via many previously unpublished letters of the love affair between the influential Anglo-Ceylonese philosopher AK Coomaraswamy and the young Jewish Austrian-American dancer from New York, Stella Bloch.

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