The ambivalent attitude in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Britain towards the display of Indian art meant that first-hand access to Indian sculpture and painting remained difficult, even in London, the so-called ‘heart of empire’. The well-illustrated publications of the India Society (founded by William Rothenstein in 1910) were, therefore, an important vehicle for disseminating knowledge and information about Indian art among artists, writers and collectors in Britain in the years preceding the First World War. This article examines the complexities of the contributions made by the former colonial administrator and principal of Calcutta Art School, E.B. Havell and the Sri Lankan-British art historian Ananda Coomaraswamy to the re-evaluation of Indian art in the early twentieth century and the impact this had in shaping a modernist sculptural aesthetic in Britain. Focusing primarily on the examples of Jacob Epstein and Eric Gill, the article argues that such intersections are about more than a search for visual semblances, and that Gill and Epstein were not simply undertaking what Helen Carr has described as ‘the aesthetic equivalent of imperialist pillage’, the rifling of colonized cultures for inspiration. Undoubtedly, artists in Britain were stirred by their exposure to new and different forms and systems of representation – how could they not be? Yet, what I emphasize here is that these cross-cultural encounters – which were sometimes direct and real, and at other times imagined and projected – manifested themselves in other, more oblique, ways in early twentieth-century artistic discourse, identities and practices at the ‘heart of empire’. Thus, I demonstrate that, while Coomaraswamy’s and Havell’s ideas concerning art and culture were fostered by the connective webs of communication and travel made possible by the British Empire, they are also emblematic of the transnational contacts made with those involved in anti-imperial and anti-industrial movements both in Britain and India. In so doing, the article highlights the ‘double nature of the imperial system’: extending power and domination over colonized countries, on the one hand, and bringing the imperial metropolis and its artists into contact with other artistic practices and subjectivities, on the other, creating interconnected networks of encounter which conventional histories of sculptural practice (often isolated within national boundaries) have at worst ignored and at best mapped only in terms of stylistic influence.