Quest for Coomaraswamy
ebook ∣ A life in the Arts
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Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy (AKC) began his professional life asa potentially brilliant scientist at the dawn of the 20th century and died as a distinguished though controversial metaphysician in 1947, less than a month after the British retreated from the divided Indian subcontinent. In between, he was an omnivorous pedagogue who explored almost every branch of the humanities – most notably the arts and crafts of South Asia, both as a scholar and as a collector. This eminently readable biography of AKC is written by another multifaceted scholar who followed him exactly two decades after his death to the Boston Museum as Curator. Dr Pratapaditya Pal presents an account of the quotidian and intellectual life of AKC principally as an art historian; in so doing he also recounts his own engagement with AKC's works. Pal never met Coomaraswamy, but did meet his last wife (he had four), and several of his friends, colleagues and admirers. This biography is based largely on their recollections, his voluminous letters, and, of course, his prodigious writings. While an excellent intellectual biography of AKC was published in 1977, the author's quest here is to present the person behind the persona, revealing the nuts and bolts of both his outer and inner lives, but always simultaneously attempting to maintain a rigorous sensitivity and respect, in order to present a realistic but unvarnished truth.