A U-M professor’s Indian art legacy | Arts & Culture

A U-M professor’s Indian art legacy

A U-M professor’s Indian art legacy

Women Greet a Horseman from the Mahâbhârata, India, Maharashtra, Paithan school, early to mid-19th century, ink and opaque watercolor on paper. Gift of Professor Walter M. and Nesta R. Spink for the James Marshall Plumer Memorial Collection, 1970.

An intricate painting of Indian deity Kumara and his peacock, a portion of a hand-carved frieze from the 5th century depicting Indian mythology Ramayana, and a beautiful sketch of a boy with a pot by Martin Drolling.

These are some of the works that will go on exhibition as part of “The Connoisseurs’ Legacy: The Collection of Nesta and Walter Spink.”

Walter and Nesta Spink

Walter and Nesta Spink

The exhibition, which begins June 18 at the University of Michigan Museum of Art, honors the legacy of professor emeritus Walter Spink and his wife Nesta, and celebrates the art works they have donated to the museum over the years.

Portion of a Ramayana narrative frieze, India, Gupta period (320–647 CE), 5th century, terracotta. Gift of Professor Walter M. and Nesta R. Spink, 2012

Portion of a Ramayana narrative frieze, India, Gupta period (320–647 CE), 5th century, terracotta. Gift of Professor Walter M. and Nesta R. Spink, 2012.

Spink is a leading scholar of history of the Ajanta caves that are dedicated to Buddha in the western state of Maharashtra in India. Nesta Spink spent time as a curator at UMMA and was a leading authority on the lithographs of James McNeill Whistler. Spink retired from U-M in 2000, but still continues to engage with students about Ajanta caves’ artistic traditions and research.

Page from an Indian zodiac manuscript: Elephant-Headed Figure on a White Bird, India, Rajasthan, Jaipur school, ca. 1840, ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper. Gift of Professor Walter M. and Nesta R. Spink, 1985.

Page from an Indian zodiac manuscript: Elephant-Headed Figure on a White Bird, India, Rajasthan, Jaipur school, ca. 1840, ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper. Gift of Professor Walter M. and Nesta R. Spink, 1985.

The 121 art objects and paintings put on display include miniature Indian paintings, terracotta sculptures, South Asian folk art pieces and rare Whistler prints that are almost never seen on public display. The Spinks have been collecting Indian art since 1952 when they first went to India on a Fulbright grant.  

“We gathered some specimens that impressed or intrigued or interested us, not trying not expecting to gather any masterpieces,” Walter Spink said.

Natsu Oyobe, curator of Asian art at UMMA, helped curate this exhibition. She said the collection has many pieces that will be of interest to Indian art enthusiasts.

“The pieces are from different parts of India and show great diversity,” she said.

UMMA is also planning an education program at 2 p.m. Aug. 7 in its exhibition gallery.

The exhibition runs June 18-Sept. 25 in the University of Michigan Museum of Art, 525 S. State St., Ann Arbor. Admission is free. Galleries are open 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, noon-5 p.m. Sundays and closed Mondays.