The Times

William Rothenstein


William Rothenstein was a renowned artist and art administrator, who was interested in various forms and origins of art.

On 4 February 1910, Sir George Birdwood chaired a lecture given by E. B. Havell to the Royal Society of Arts and commented that India had no fine arts. Outraged, Rothenstein, with 12 other signatories (including T. W. Rolleston and George Russell (AE)), wrote a letter to The Times, published on 28 February 1910, to dispute the idea that India had no fine art. Subsequently, Havell and Rothenstein were instrumental in the foundation of the India Society, which was based in London to promote Indian art.

Rothenstein travelled to India in 1910 with Christiana Herringham and met Rabindranath Tagore in Calcutta. When Tagore visited London in 1912, Rothenstein introduced him to literary circles. Tagore was often found at Rothenstein's house in Hampstead, North London. Rothenstein urged the India Society to publish Tagore's Gitanjali in 1912, which won Tagore the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913.

Rothenstein went to the Western Front in 1917 as Official War Artist. With these duties, he was unable to comply with the request from Kedar Nath Das Gupta and Laurence Binyon to decorate the scenery for their production of Sakuntala in 1919. Rothenstein remained an active member of the India Society in his lifetime, Indian art was an influence on his own paintings, and he was a key figure at memorial meetings for Tagore in 1941. He was knighted in 1931 and died in 1945.

Published works: 

Men and Memories (London: Faber and Faber, 1932)

Date of birth: 
29 Jan 1872
Contributions to periodicals: 
Secondary works: 

Arrowsmith, Rupert Richard, 'An Indian Renascence and the Rise of Global Modernism – William Rothenstein, Abanindranath Tagore, and the Ajanta Frescoes', Burlington Magazine (April 2010)

Lago, Mary, 'A Lost Treasure: William Rothenstein, Tagore and the India Society', The Times Literary Supplement (16 April 1999) 

Lago, Mary, Christiana Herringham and the Edwardian Art Scene (London: Lund Humphries, 1996)

Mitter, Partha, Art and Nationalism in Colonial India, 1850-1922: Occidental Orientations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994)

Mitter, Partha, The Triumph of Modernism (London: Reaktion, 2007) 

Rothenstein, William, and Lago, Mary McClelland, Imperfect Encounter: Letters of William Rothenstein and Rabindranath Tagore, 1911-1914, ed., introduction and notes by Mary McClelland Lago (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1972)

Archive source: 

Houghton Library, Harvard University, Boston

Correspondence relating to Indian Art, Mss Eur B213, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

India Society papers, Mss Eur F147, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

Tate Britain, Millbank, London

City of birth: 
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Date of death: 
14 Feb 1945
Location of death: 
Gloucestershire, England


Tags for Making Britain: 



Born in 1864, Rukhmabai was married at 11 years to Dadaji Bhikaji, then aged nineteen. When her in-laws insisted that she move into the marital home some years later, Rukhmabai refused and the case was brought to court. The case came to the attention of the British press as the issue of child marriage and the rights of women were brought to the fore. Although the case went in Rukhmabai's favour, an appeal went in Dadaji's favour.

A fund was raised for Rukhmabai to travel to England to study medicine. In 1889, she arrived in England. She enrolled in the London School of Medicine and qualified as a doctor in 1894 (having also studied at the Royal Free Hospital). She then returned to India and worked as the Medical Officer for Women in Surat for twenty two years and then in Rajkot for twelve years.

Published works: 

'Indian Child Marriage (an Appeal to the British Government)', New Review, 16 (Sept. 1890), pp. 263-9

'Purdah - the Need for its Abolition', in Mithan Choksi and Evelyn Gedge (eds) Women in Modern India (Fifteen Papers by Indian Women Writers) (Bombay: D. B. Taraporewala & Co., 1929)

Date of birth: 
01 Jan 1864

Harvey Carlisle (wrote to The Times with Rukhmabai's letter in 1887), B. M. Malabari, Louisa Martindale (classmate at London School of Medicine), Sir Monier Williams (wrote to the press in relation to her case), Dr Edith Pechey Phipson (championed Rukhmabai in Bombay and helped raise funds for her to study in UK), Eve McLaren, Pandita Ramabai, Cornelia Sorabji.

Contributions to periodicals: 

'Letter to editor', The Times (9 April 1887)

Notice', The Times (15 May 1894)

Precise DOB unknown: 
Secondary works: 

Burton, Antoinette, 'From Child Bride to "Hindoo Lady": Rukhmabai and the Debate on Sexual Respectability in Imperial Britain', The American Historical Review 103.4 (October 1998), pp. 1119-46

Chandra, Sudhir, Enslaved Daughters: Colonialism, Law and Women's Rights (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1998)

Forbes, Geraldine, Women in Modern India (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996)

de Souza, Eunice and Pereira, Lindsay (eds), Women's Voices: Selections from Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century Indian Writing in English (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2002)

Archive source: 

The Times, 1887

City of birth: 
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London School of Medicine for Women NW3 2QG
United Kingdom
51° 33' 48.6144" N, 0° 11' 2.2236" W
Date of death: 
01 Jan 1955
Precise date of death unknown: 
Location of death: 
Bombay, India
Dates of time spent in Britain: 


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