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Kramrisch, Stella

Date born:  1896

Place Born:  Nikolsburg (now Mikulov), Czech Republic

Date died:  1993

Place died:  Philadelphia, PA

Art historian of South Asian art.  Studied under Joseph Strzygowski (q.v.) at University of Vienna.  Dissertation on early Buddhist sculpture (1919).  1921-50 taught at University of Calcutta. During those years she edited Journal of the Indian Society of Oriental Art and published numerous works including magnum opus, The Hindu Temple (1946).  She traveled to the U.S. as early as 1922, but after the assassination of her husband in Pakistan (1950), she moved there permanently to the United States where she taught at the Institute of Fine Art, New York University, the University of Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  

Methodologically, Kramrisch remained close to her mentor, Strzygowski, studying the object using a metaphysical approach and employing distinctly non-western concepts in her history writing.  While a student, she was influenced by Kandinsky's art theory and the theosophy of Rudolf Steiner (whom she knew personally).  In India, she converted to Hinduism and amassed a significant collection of South Asian art objects which she ultimately sold or willed to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  The major exhibition she mounted at the museum in 1968, "Unknown India" perhaps best demonstrates her belief that the understanding of both aristocratic and common art objects were necessary to appreciate a culture's artistic accomplishment.

Home Country:  Austria/United States

Sources:  New York Times, January 24, 1999, Section 2:  35.  Dictionary of Art 18:  437-8;  Miller, Barbara Stoler, "Stella Kramrisch: A Biographical Essay," pp 3-34, in Exploring India's Sacred Art:  Selected Writings of Stella Kramrisch, Barbara Stoler Miller, ed.  Philadelphia:  University of Philadelphia Press, 1983;  Threads of Cotton, Threads of Brass:  Arts of Eastern India and Bangladesh from the Stella Kramrisch Collection.  Philadelphia Museum of Art exhibition catalog, 1999.

Bibliography: [complete bibliography:] Dye, Joseph M., III, comp. "A Bibliography of the Writings of Stella Kramrisch." in  Exploring India's Sacred Art:  Selected Writings of Stella Kramrisch.  Philadelphia:  University of Philadelphia Press, 1983, pp. 35-48; [dissertation:] Untersuchungen zum Wesen der frühbuddhistischen Bildnerei Indiens. Ph. D., University of Vienna, 1919;  The Hindu Temple.   2 vols.  Calcutta:  University of Calcutta, 1946.  (Repr. Delhi:  Motilal Banarsidass, 1976).  Presence of Siva.  Princeton, NJ:  Princeton University Press, 1981; Unknown India:  Ritual Art in Tribe and Village. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1968;