Special Features & Tools | Definition: Himalayan Style Art
The HAR website is requesting, for the purposes of grant writing and fund raising, scholars, academics, and educators of all kinds to send in testimonials of support to be posted on the site. The website was created and went live in 1997. Technology has changed, hardware is more robust, and software offers many more features and benefits to the end users. The HAR website needs to look towards the future with plans for new technologies, upgrades to existing infra-structure and new user features. Please help us in moving Himalayan Art Resources and the field forward. Thank You.
--- Jeff Watt, Director & Chief Curator
List of Contributors:
Barnett, Robert (Columbia University)
Bellezza, John Vincent (Senior Research Fellow, Tibet Center, University of Virginia)
Brinkley, Ben (University of Oregon)
Cabezon, Jose Ignacio (University of California, Santa Barbara)
Cozort, Daniel (Dickinson College)
Craig, Sienna (Dartmouth College)
Cuevas, Bryan (Florida Sate University)
Granoff, Phyllis (Yale University)
Jackson, David P. (formerly of Hamburg University)
Klein, Anne Carolyn (Rice University)
Linrothe, Rob (Northwestern University)
Lopez, Donald (University of Michigan)
Luczanits, Christian (Rubin Museum of Art)
Malcolm, Reed (The University of California Press)
Mullin, Glenn (Tibetologist)
Mayer, Robert (Oxford University)
Quintman, Andrew (Yale University)
Schaeffer, Kurtis R. (University of Virginia)
Sheehy, Michael (Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center)
Sperling, Elliot (Indiana University)
Tuttle, Gray (Columbia University)
"The digital revolution has had its failures and its heroes, but Jeff Watt and the Himalayan Art Resources website are unquestionably among the latter. Watt has taken new technology and produced a new and richer way of looking at art. HAR is extraordinarily valuable for teaching and disseminating knowledge about a vast and important field of knowledge, for those who are interested in art and religion in general, or the history and culture of the Himalayan areas. But this is more than an educational achievement: HAR has been conceived and implemented in a way that invites us as viewers and participants to change the way we look at things. Because the images are such high resolution, we are drawn into the detail of these images, so that their richness because an integral part of the experience of looking at them. And because they are embedded within multiple layers of information and background, the website leads us to see the images as inseparable from the histories, religious philosophies, cultural complexity and technical artistry that produced them. So it's a website that changes the way these objects are looked at, and enriches us, the viewers, by encouraging us to view them in new and edifying ways. This should be listed among the most positive examples of successful, top-quality uses of digital technology."
Director of Modern Tibetan Studies Program,
John Vincent Bellezza:
"The Himalayan Art Resources (HAR) website has established itself as the world's leading online resource for art from the Himalayan ranges and Tibetan Plateau. As is well known, this website hosts more than 50,000 images of scroll paintings, murals, sculptures and various other artistic media. The number of images is constantly increasing, as are other digital resources of HAR. The materials published on this website are freely accessible and applicable to a variety of study, exhibitory and devotional purposes. Patronage of the HAR website is facilitated by extensive site maps attached to all its major sections, as well as by an extensive indexing system. Perhaps less well known to users is the growing body of essays and articles on sundry topics pertaining to the art of High Asia that are reproduced or published by HAR."
"HAR is not an archives or simple repository of Himalayan art, it is a curated website in which the organization and presentation of art is carefully orchestrated for research purposes, exhibition, and improved communication between various primary holders of Himalayan art. For example, HAR has been instrumental in 'reuniting' a number of paintings belonging to traditional sets that were broken up after being removed from their native context. With so much work and care going into the creation of HAR, it is understandable that ever more private and institutional collectors are choosing it in order to extend awareness of their artistic treasures to a greater public."
John Vincent Bellezza
Senior Research Fellow, Tibet Center,
University of Virginia
"For the past four years, I have been using Himalayan Art Resources (HAR) to teach undergraduates at the University of Oregon. The web site has been invaluable for teaching and the students take to it quickly. I've found HAR to be superior to other online art resources, both for research and presentations, in that it combines the following qualities:
HAR is curated.
Unlike most online image repositories, all objects on HAR are classified by iconography, medium and style. Unlike almost all other databases of Buddhist art, the iconographic data is reliable.
HAR is specialized, but not too specialized.
HAR's specialization in a specific area--Himalayan Art--accounts for the value of the site's interpretation and classification. At the same time this body of art is sufficiently broad--geographically, religiously, historically, stylistically, and in its various media--to give a lot of room for teaching, study, and range of interests.
HAR catalogs objects from multiple collections.
This is especially important given that Himalayan art tends to be created in sets of objects that get separated over time. The breadth of HAR's cataloging helps virtually reunite these sets. The more time one spends in a system like this, the more artificial it seems to use collection-specific catalogs.
HAR represents both private collections and institutional collections (public and private).
I think this is a very unusual crossover and is perhaps the most outstanding feature of HAR. This breadth is only possible because of years of patient and skillful diplomacy. It is a testament to the well-earned trustworthiness of the site.
HAR objects are easily linkable.
This may seem like a small matter, but many online art resources use frame sets, Flash, or other technology that makes it difficult or impossible to save a unique URI for an object.
Image viewing tools are excellent.
HAR's image viewer is like Google Earth for art. And it's been in use for almost 10 years. I see students spend a lot of time investigating objects using HAR's zooming features (more time than they spend examining museum objects in person). It's also very helpful (see above) that one can save URIs of zoomed image details.
HAR objects are interpreted and contextualized.
I continue to be pleasantly surprised at how much students can learn about objects just from scrutinizing an entry in HAR and following links throughout the site.
HAR provides topic outlines.
This is such a simple and effective tool for organizing complex knowledge that it's surprising other catalogs don't do it. The topic outline is an example of an area in which HAR is conscientious toward the novice--often neglected by scholarly resources--while still being a top-notch resource to the expert."
Instructor, Art History
University of Oregon
Jose Ignacio Cabezon:
"HAR is the premier resource for Tibetan and Himalayan art on the internet. The vast wealth of images, the extensive and accurate documentation, the technical sophistication of its interface, and the extensive hyperlinking to other resources make it an invaluable tool for scholars and students alike. I use HAR constantly in both my teaching and research. In the classroom, my students use HAR to explore the significance and variety of Tibetan religious art, and to gain a greater understanding of Tibetan Buddhist iconography and style. The essays reproduced on the website (for example, on stylistics and symbolism), and the easy-to-navigate outline pages, are also invaluable teaching tools. Although my research is principally textual, I constantly turn to Himalayanart.org whenever I need to find visual representations related to my work. It was, in fact, through exploring HAR that I found a wonderful image of the 15th century Tibetan scholar-saint Gorampa - an image that ended up on the cover of a recent book. Kudos to Jeff Watt and the HAR team for their invaluable contribution to Tibetan and Himalayan Studies."
Jose Ignacio Cabezon
XIVth Dalai Lama Professor
UC Santa Barbara
"Himalayan Art Resources is like having the most fantastic museum of Himalayan art next door, where you can get within inches of the pieces and read illuminating captions on the wall. For years I accumulated slides of thousands Himalayan art works and spent many hours putting together slide shows. Now with the HAR collection I can build PowerPoint presentations easily or simply go directly to the website and zoom in on images with the tools available there. The site is also invaluable for its art history perspectives and for its maps of the relationships of traditions."
"Himalayan Art Resources is, literally and figuratively, a /nor bu,/ a gem. The site is masterfully curated and easy to navigate at all levels. I have used the site for my own scholarship and teaching, as well as a source of inspiration and beauty in its own right. HAR has informed the development of my courses on Himalayan and Tibetan anthropology and Asian medical systems. The site has allowed me to introduce students to key social concepts and historical periods by using masterful visual images, and, in the process, to emphasize the dynamism and diversity within Tibetan and Himalayan traditions. My students and I have benefited greatly from the ability to dive into the layers and details of paintings - from medical thangka to depictions of the demoness of Tibet, and beyond. HAR is an extremely well cataloged and labeled collection. I extend deep gratitude to Jeff Watt and others who have worked on the site."
Department of Anthropology
Bryan J. Cuevas:
"For several years now I've been successfully implementing major components of the Himalayan Art Resources (HAR) website in my undergraduate courses, "Tibetan and Himalayan Religions" and "The Buddhist Tradition," here at Florida State University. With HAR's extensive collection of hi-res images and reliable reference details I'm much better able to introduce my students to more contextualized and vibrant perspectives on Tibet and Tibetan/Himalayan culture than they would otherwise be exposed to in the old traditional text-based course programs. I also regularly use the site for my own research, or just simply for the joy of looking and learning about all this fantastic art. Jeff Watt and his team have provided an indispensable resource and I remain forever grateful to them for their dedication and extraordinary work!"
Bryan J. Cuevas
John F. Priest Professor of Religion
Director of Graduate Studies
Book Review Editor, Journal of the International Association of Tibetan Studies
Florida State University
"The Himalayan Art Resources is an invaluable tool for students and scholars in the field. I regularly recommend it to my undergraduate and graduate students. One of its strengths is that it can serve as an introduction to the field of Himalayan art and Buddhist art in general, with its clear and readable discussions of the various elements of Buddhist iconography and its general sections on various deities in the pantheon. Its importance for advanced research in the field is unprecedented. By bringing together photographic documentation of art works in museums across the world it makes possible research that would otherwise simply not be possible. I often use it for powerpoint presentations and am looking forward to its next stage, when the quality of the downloaded images will be much better."
David P. Jackson:
"Like every curator in the field, I am deeply indebted to the Himalayan Art Resources website (HAR). Created by the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation in 1997, HAR presents images of tens of thousands of works of art from the Himalayas, Tibet and surrounding regions, along with iconographic descriptions. The extraordinary tool saved me and many others much time in tracking down and examining works located in museum and private collections around the world. Jeff Watt, Director and Chief Curator of HAR (www.himalayanart.org), kindly shared a number of important references and identifications and provided access to many needed illustrations, including some of his own photographs. The research on painting sets presented on the site by Watt and his team also greatly aided my research. Tenzin C. Dharlo traced for me several time urgently needed digital images, and other HAR staff members David Pritzker and Simon Chantasirivisal helped develop this invaluable resource for my research."
Excerpt from David Jackson's Preface from PATRON AND PAINTER, SITU PANCHEN AND THE REVIVAL OF THE ENCAMPMENT STYLE. Rubin Museum of Art, 2009.
Anne Carolyn Klein:
"Every student of Tibetan or other Himalayan culture knows the vital place that its art has as a key to engaging everything from folk beliefs to complex Buddhist ritual. Its rich liturgical and philosophical traditions are so deeply embedded in its artistic production that one can hardly read, to maximum effect, one sort of text without the other. At the same time the iconography is so varied and embellished that only a colossal collection under girded by impeccable organization and labeling can make this corpus accessible even to the most adept scholar. Thus I, like all of my colleagues in the field of Tibetan Studies/Buddhist Studies/Central Asian Studies owe a huge debt of gratitude to Jeff Watt and the Himalayan Art Resources website. There is nothing like it. It is a vital tool for opening the doors of real perception into the Himalayan world. I will be using it extensively during the coming year as I teach and prepare materials for a book on Jigme Lingpa whose work is illuminated in vital ways by associated images for contemplation and inspiration."
Anne Carolyn Klein
Professor of Religious Studies
Rice University, Houston, Texas
"The Himalayan Art Resources website is a treasure for both scholarship and for teaching. I depend on it myself regularly and extensively for three reasons: the reliable iconographic identifications, the number and quality of the scans of Himalayan works of art, and the organization and ease of access. The iconographic identifications, due to Jeff Watt's extraordinary expertise, are generally consistent and more trustworthy than any other source I know. The details give as much pleasure as they do information (including inscriptions) when they are high quality scans in fine-grained detail. And the various indexes provide innovative keys into the complex mass of aggregated material. These avenues help turn visual and technical data into usable information. The website is incorporated into my syllabi as a resource recommended for students; I utilize it in my preparations for course presentations; and I use it 'live' in class to explore issues that arise in discussion. It is also a portal to other links, essays, information and listings of a great variety, very useful for teaching. Although the iconography is the most consistent and expansive feature, because there are so many versions of the same themes, the website also provides convenient opportunities to compare different regional treatments of the same theme. Thus the art historical aspects, as well as the technical identifications of religious themes, can also be brought into play for study and teaching while using the site. Over fifty institutional collections (and counting) and nearly twenty private collections have provided some content to date, and HAR is innovatively attempting to incorporate works still in situ in Himalayan regions. It would be desirable, however, for more collections, public and private, to donate images to this resource. I know many more private collectors use HAR than contribute to it!"
Associate Professor, Department of Art History,
"At the University of Michigan, I often teach a course called 'Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism' to about 300 students. The auditorium is equipped with a 'smart podium,' which allows me to surf the web at will during lecture. After some unpleasant experiences with Google Images, where the quality of thangkas varies widely, I eventually arrived at a new strategy. Before the class begins, I go to the home page of HAR and leave it there throughout the lecture. Here, I know that I will have immediate access to a range of beautiful works for any figure that I wish to discuss, clearly reproduced, with the ability to zoom into details. I am able to recommend the site to students because of the reliable historical and doctrinal information provided for each piece, something relatively rare in the virtual world. HAR has become an invaluable resource for me, transforming the way that I teach courses on Tibetan Buddhism."
Arthur E. Link Distinguished University Professor of Buddhist and Tibetan Studies
University of Michigan
"When I wrote a number of still unpublished entries on thangkas in the Tucci collection at the Museo Nazionale d'Arte Orientale, Rome, in 2001 the Himalayan art website has still been at the beginning, but already was an astonishing resource. Besides the sheer quantity of the material available, an outstanding feature of the website is the possibility to zoom into a painting until one can see the secondary deities in detail and can read accompanying inscriptions. Occasionally even the backsides of paintings are available. By now the website has become an indispensable tool for anyone and any work on Himalayan art and partly also beyond. In fact, the Himalayan art website has completely changed the possibilities in studying Tibetan art and should be a role model for other online documentations of visual material, both technically and in the pace new items are added and information on older ones is improved."
(15th March to 15th July 2009)
Institute for the Study of the Ancient World (ISAW)
New York University, New York, NY
"The breadth and depth of the Himalayan Art Resources web site is unparalleled. Where else can everyone from students and teachers to artists and practitioners find such an incredible collection of rare Himalayan art right at their fingertips? Painting and bronzes from museums, libraries, and private collections all over the world are brought together under one virtual roof, allowing the visitor to access material that has until now been either too remote or too obscure to find. Historical information, terminology, genealogies, cataloging, and dating, add to its strength, making this web site an indispensable pedagogical tool. If Himalayan art has been facing extinction over the last couple of decades, the HAR web site has just saved it."
Reed Malcolm, Senior Acquisitions Editor.
The University of California Press.
Himalayan Art Resources (HAR) with its fabulous public-access website and data base, is certainly the most important resource for information on Central Asian art. As an author of some thirty books on Central Asian culture, including a half dozen titles on Himalayan art and another dozen on Tibetan history, I can unequivocally state that HAR has single-handedly carried international knowledge of Himalayan Buddhist art from obscurity and guesswork into the daylight of solid academic knowledge and research.
That said, there is still a long way to go. The art created over the past two thousand years by the fifty or so Buddhist kingdoms of Central Asia (today mostly under occupation by India, China or Russia), is a vast subject. Much remains to be done in fully documenting this amazing contribution to human civilization. HAR will play a major role in that documentation.
Prof. Glenn Mullin,
The Himalayan Art Resources website is a unique and invaluable resource for anyone involved in the study of Tibetan religion and its art. It brings together the highest level of international scholarship with brilliant organisation, to provide one of the few truly reliable sources on Tibetan art that is at the same time easily accessible to all. The scope of the website is complete, envisaging the entire range of the Tibetan religious arts, and already drawing together the resources of around 50 major institutions and many private collections too. The iconographic identifications are actually reliable, no small achievement in a field in which reliability can often prove a scarce resource. The identifications of the numerous individual items are augmented with a growing number of Outline Pages and Main Pages, in which various themes and tropes are explained with the greatest clarity, yet to a very high level of scholarship. One of the most striking features of HAR is its absolute committment to education, and its high level of responsiveness in pursuit of this goal. A doctoral student of mine working on a particular deity approached HAR for advice, and in response, and within quite a short time, HAR had produced an entire Outline Page for the deity concerned, to the absolute delight of my student. One should add, the technical aspects and layout of the website are excellent, enabling images to be called up very swiftly, and then to be viewed in extraordinarily minute detail.
Dr Rob Mayer
University Research Lecturer in Tibetan and Himalayan Studies
The Oriental Institute
Since its inception, Himalayan Art Resources (HAR) has proven itself to be an indispensable resource for both scholars and students of Tibetan and Himalayan art, religion, and culture. As a research tool, the website encompasses an enormous rage of visual materials, bringing together an unprecedented collection of paintings, statues, and other works of art, all methodically categorized and fully searchable. Many images include a detailed stylistic analysis; more important works are accompanied by a report on its historical context. The images themselves can be inspected in amazingly close detail, clearly showing even the tiniest features and allowing one to read inscriptions right in the browser. I have also fruitfully incorporated the HAR collection into several courses I teach, including a introduction to Tibetan Buddhism and a seminar on Himalayan Visual Culture. In those settings, students can view objects related by subject, style, or period, and are thus able to place any given image within its broader visual and historical contexts. The website also includes a number of outlines, iconographic guides, and visual maps-all keyed to the central archive-that are extremely helpful for use in the classroom.
Congratulations are in order for Jeff Watt and his team at Himalayan Art Resources. Their work has made a major contribution to the fields of Tibetan religious and cultural studies, and HAR is one of the few online resources for Tibetan Studies that I turn to on a regular basis. Its technical framework is sophisticated enough to be useful for specialists while remaining elegant and user-friendly for a more general audience. I hope they maintain the support they have earned over the years so that their project will continue to develop and grow.
Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts, Princeton University
Assistant Professor, Department of Religious Studies,
Kurtis R. Schaeffer:
"At the University of Virginia we teach a popular course called Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism. As many as two-hundred people a year enroll in this course, and we now use HAR every time we teach it. In fact, HAR has transformed the way that I teach this course, for with HAR resources it is possible to teach to the image in a way that was simply impossible a decade ago. For instance, I use biographies of major Tibetan Buddhist figures as the principal textbooks for the course. Students are able to read the biographies before class, and we then explore the narratives during class with the aid of Tibetan narrative paintings from HAR. What's more, HAR's inclusion of multiple paintings of the same subject from across the Tibetan cultural region allows us to treat visual narratives as unique representations of life stories that vary by historical era, geographic region, and social context. When presented through visual media (as opposed to writing), variation of this sort is immediately and viscerally evident for students. A crucial pedagogical goal of my courses is to impress upon students that Tibetan Buddhism is not a timeless, monolithic set of disembodied beliefs, but rather a living, breathing tradition that has transformed over time and place. This is in fact a major learning goal in any humanities curriculum, and HAR has contributed directly to this goal."
Kurtis R. Schaeffer
Department of Religious Studies
University of Virginia
"In addition to providing open access to the vast treasury of Himalayan art to the general public, Himalayan Art Resources serves as a tremendous tool for educating. So much so that I can safely say that it has positively influenced my pedagogy. Rather than looking exclusively at texts and literary examples, I regularly complement course readings with visual presentations in the classroom from HAR & post links to specific images from the HAR site on the online course communal portal so that students can study the images in the interim between classes. This has deeply enriched the seminar settings and the ongoing in-class discussions in several of my courses including, "Mandala: Visions of Tantric Buddhism" and "Tibetan Religions and Culture."
As Himalayan cultures are largely tantric cultures, and the tantric approach is broadly concerned with engaging the full spectrum of sensory experiences, visual idioms and symbolism have had a profound impact on how these traditions have presented themselves historically, and consequently how we present them today in the academy. By bringing this vivid and often colorful celebrated imagery from these cultures into the classroom, HAR is playing a critical role in supporting contemporary educators in the fields of Himalayan art, religion, and cultural anthropology. Many thanks for all of your dedicated work!"
Scholar in Residence, Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center
Faculty in Religious Studies at the New School and Manhattanville College
"I'd like to express a few words of appreciation to you for the work you're doing with Himalayan Art Resources. The web site that you've created is a tremendous tool for all of us working in the field of Tibetan Studies. The examples of Tibetan art on the site appear to be extremely rich, coming from so many different institutions and publications, and allow me to easily locate what I need for research and teaching. I know that I'm not alone in this. Himalayan Art Resources is unique; its utility extends well beyond art history and provides visual imagery for historians (like me) as well as for scholars and students in such diverse areas as Tibetan medicine, Tibetan religion, etc. I look forward to the sites continued expansion!"
Associate Professor, Central Eurasian Studies
Indiana University, Bloomington
"I am writing to indicate my deep appreciation of the Himalayan Art Resources website and staff. I regularly use the site for my own research and to locate images for teaching Tibetan Civilization (catering to about 50 undergraduates each year, as well as a handful of graduate students). The students use the site to help write their object biography assignment, which gives them greater appreciation for Tibetan art. It is easy to use, beautiful to look at, and most importantly, totally reliable--which is so rare for Tibetan materials on the web. I especially appreciate the recent addition of topical outlines, which open up new ways of finding interesting material and organizing the vast riches of HAR. Finally, Jeff Watt has been kind enough to come to give lectures for the Tibetan Civilization class at Columbia for the last two years, giving students direct access to the ways Tibetan art and the collecting and documentation of Tibetan art in the West works. I hope HAR continues to have the well-deserved support it has earned over the years."
Leila Hadley Luce Assistant Professor of Modern Tibetan Studies Columbia University