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The birth of Modern Indian Art

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Once the Mughal Empire ceased to exist painters who bloomed under the court advocacy took off in all directions around the country. Places like Patna, Nepal, Lucknowand the Punjabhills became their inspiration. During the same time many European artists like J. Zoffany, Tilly Kettle, W. Danielle came to Indiawith their own academic idiom thus inspiring Indian artists and vice –versa. They depicted the Indian landscape in a romanticized fashion through the medium of oil paintings. This technique impressed and influenced Indian artists who started using these new techniques. The result was a merging of eastern and western themes as well as techniques.

By this time cultural imperialism has infiltrated the cultural milieu and sources of patronage saw a visible shift of attitudes and style of art towards artists and works of east meets west collaboration. It saw a lot of conflict of acceptance of works of this merge in art and conflict between notions of individuality and notions of artistic anonymity. It was at this time that many Art Societies and Colleges were set up. In the year 1854, the first Industrial Art Society was set up in Calcuttaby Rajendralal Mitra, Justice Pratt, Jatindra Mohan Tagore and others. By 1864, this was converted into the Calcutta Government College of Art. Soon to follow were the BombayGovernmentArtCollegeand the MadrasGovernmentCollegeof Arts & Crafts.

Talk of evolution of modern Indian Art is incomplete without a mention of paintings of Indian artists like Raja Ravi Varma and Amrita Sher-Gil. Varma was the first Indian artist to master the oil on canvas technique. He took Indiaback to feudal themes and arrived at a fusion of Indian themes. Varma’s purposeful choice of medium was a conscious step to be accepted not only by the British but also the Indian aristocracy as it denoted progress. He did not blindly copy English themes instead he combined the technique of oil painting with the decorative attitudes of Tanjore glass painting and the drama of Marathi theatre to create a fusion between the east and west.  He was honored the title of ‘gentleman’ by the British for his struggle to create a new modern language in the modern Indian art context. What’s more, he imbibed western techniques and European aesthetics to do so.

Another celebrated Indian artist of the pre-independence era would be Amrita Sher-Gil. She initiated the merging of European and Hungarian traditions with ancient Indian art. She was also the youngest as well as the only Indian artist to be elected as an Associate of the Grand Salon inParis. Her paintings show a significant influence of the western modes of painting. Amrita’s works also reflect vividly her deep passion & sense for colours, her love for the country and more importantly her response to the life of its people. Her deep understanding of the Indian subjects also comes across through her paintings.

Modern Indian Art refers to the art movement ranging from the pre-independence era with theBengalschool, to the post independence progressive artists group. The Modern Art movement inIndiabegan to gain momentum around 1947 and swept across the country spawning across art centres like Shantiniketan inCalcutta, Cholamandal in Chennai,Baroda,Bhopal and Bombay.

In theBengalSchoolwhose depictions chiefly revolved around mythological and religious themes put forth artists like Abanindranath Tagore and Nandalal Bose. Rabindranath and Gagnendranath Tagore correlated with the school’s basic goal but experimented with concepts like cubism and favoured individual expressions. Jamini Roy with his Indian folk art was amongst the most popular twentieth century artist and Amrita Sher-Gil with her post-impressionistic colours, were also a part of this art movement. Today works, by Roy and Sher-Gil and other National Art Treasures including Rabindranath Tagore cannot be exported outside the country.

The Cholamandal movement in Chennai, founded by artist KCSPanicker brought modernism to art inSouth Indiafollowed by artists like C Douglas & KM Adimoolam. Bhupen Khakhar & KG Subbramanian fromBarodaare amongst the few that hold a high position among collectors and the fraternity.

In independent India progressive artists groups in Bombay which included stalwarts MF Husain, SK Bhakre, KH Ara, Gade, FN Souza, SH Raza, pointedly ignored themes of political upheaval, seeking refuge instead in beautifying the mundane, everyday aspects of living.

These doyens of the progressive art group which came about post independence hold the highest place in the history of Indian Art today, becoming an integral part of the cultural heritage and history of Indian Art. Their works are in some of the most prestigious collections and risk averse patrons in these times are still looking for works from these artists. In a certain way, the Modern Indian Art Era in is still going strong.

www.breathearts.com is an online art gallery showcasing works of Indian Art. The gallery displays works of MF Hussain, FN Souza and other seasoned artists for online sales. Breathe Arts offers you a dedicated service of selling privately offering a completely confidential and direct avenue for you to acquire or sell specific pieces of art at fixed price or at public auctions at various locations worldwide.




Written by Breathe Arts

January 20, 2012 at 7:51 am

Posted in General

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