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Rupert Richard Arrowsmith spent his childhood in the Seychelles islands, Kenya, and Cornwall in the Southwest of England, where he received the majority of his education outside the context of formal institutions.
He is an alumnus of Oxford University (Christ Church), and has spent more than ten years of his adult life living and studying in various parts of Asia including Japan, Singapore, India and Nepal.
This period included a three-year stay in Burma, where he researched Theravada Buddhist practices, and was eventually ordained for a period as a monk at the remote forest retreat of the famously austere Chanmyay Yeiktha order at Hmawbi.
He has been described by the great novelist Amitav Ghosh as “that rare thing, an art historian who is equally well informed about the traditions of West and East, modern and pre-modern,” and seeks in his writing and teaching to emphasize the interdependence and connectedness of all global movements in the visual arts and in literature.
He takes as his historical role-model the fin-de-siècle poet and British Museum curator Laurence Binyon, a great bridge-builder between world cultures to whose work he habitually returns in his writing. Binyon’s biographer, Professor John Hatcher, has recently noted the similarities, writing of Arrowsmith that “you are yourself what you so rightly call Laurence Binyon - a consummate drawer of parallels between the aesthetic traditions of seemingly disparate civilisations.”
He counts among his intellectual mentors Christopher Butler, Ronald Bush and Amitav Ghosh, and is an enthusiastic proponent of the cosmopolitanist worldview of Princeton-based philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah.
Dr Arrowsmith lives in Dulwich Village, London, but his research for a new book on the emergence of Modernist art and literature in Asia takes him regularly to Bombay, Goa, Singapore and Tokyo. He is currently also editing The Face of the Buddha - the English poet and philosopher William Empson’s famous ‘lost’ book on Buddhist art - for its first publication, and writing a novel about art history.
Dr Arrowsmith is a regular contributor to the Burlington Magazine and the Times Literary Supplement, and is a member of the visiting faculty at London’s School of Advanced Study and at the Bhau Daji Lad Museum in Mumbai, India (interview with Mumbai Time Out here).