India, the divine origin of painting is narrated in the Mahabharata, which
speaks about Nara and Narayana who were meditating in penance in the Badari
grove. Indra chose this moment to send a group of celestial damsels to disturb
their asceticism. Undaunted, Narayana took a fresh mango leaf and, with its
juice on its thigh, sketched a beautiful form of a nymph. This sketch gave
birth to Urvashi, whose superior grace and perfection put to shame all the
damsels. Later Narayana passed the skill on to Visvakarma, who spread the
knowledge in the world. This is how art is said to have been passed on from the
deities to the upcoming generation of humans.
no art form can persist if legendary artists don’t carry it with them. It is
skilful painters, who keep our rich traditions and legacy alive. Some of these
were able to leave a mark on the world with their unique sense and renditions of
painting. While India produced hundreds of artists, we shall read about a few
of them, who changed the dynamics of paintings in India.
Tagore, the nephew of Rabindranath Tagore, was one of the most prominent
artists of India. He was the first major supporter of swadeshi values in Indian
art. Abanindranath first created the ‘Indian Society of Oriental Art’ and later
went on to establish Bengal school of art. His sole aim for establishing the
school was to counter the English influence on Indian artists. He did that by
incorporating Indian elements in his works and achieved success when British
art institutions gave in and accepted to teach and propagate his style of works
in their organizations. His idea of modernizing Mughal and Rajput paintings
eventually gave rise to modern Indian painting, which took birth at his Bengal
school of art. Abanindranath is also regarded as a proficient and accomplished
writer. Most of his literary works were meant for children. Some of his books
like ‘Budo Angla’, ‘Khirer Putul’ and ‘Rajkahini’ are best examples of Bengali
Abanindranath Tagore started painting at a young age, his career took shape in
the late 1890s. Most of his works revolved around Hindu philosophy and other
things Indian. In the year 1930, he came up with a series of paintings titled
‘Arabian Nights’. The paintings depicted Calcutta’s emerging cosmopolitanism
but used the stories from Arabian Nights as its trope. Even today, this
collection of paintings is considered as one of the finest achievements of
Abanindranath Tagore. Thanks to his revolutionary ideas and his unconditional
love for tradition, cultural figures from other parts of Asia were fascinated
by him. Some of them include Okakura Kakuzo, Japanese art historian and
Yokoyama Taikan, a famous Japanese painter. His meeting with such personalities
paved the way for him to incorporate Japanese and Chinese calligraphic
techniques and traditions into his works. He also collaborated with William
Rothenstein, an English artist and author, who tried to incorporate Indian
traditions into his own works. William Rothenstein was a good friend of
Abanindranath and helped Rabindranath Tagore to publish his work ‘Gitanjali’ in
Tagore believed in the traditional Indian techniques of painting. He rejected
the materialistic art of the West and emphasized on returning to the Indian
traditional art forms. He believed that Indian art and its art forms gave
importance to spirituality as opposed to the West which stressed on
materialism. He was very much influenced by the Mughal School of painting as well
as Whistler's Aestheticism. In his later works, Abanindranath started
integrating Chinese and Japanese calligraphic traditions into his style. The
intention behind this move was to construct an amalgamation of the modern
pan-Asian artistic tradition and the common elements of Eastern artistic and
spiritual culture. His works reflected his ideologies and since they were
simple in nature, his paintings were a hit among Indian art lovers.
of his most notable works include:
Ganesh Janani – Painted in the year 1908,
‘Ganesh Janani’ depicts an image of Lord Ganesh in his child form. The Lord is
seen playing by hanging on to a branch of a tree while his mother wears a
concerned look on her face.
Bharat Mata – This beautiful painting was
completed in the year 1905. The painting depicts Bharat Mata (Mother India).
She is portrayed as having four hands, carrying important elements in each of
her hand. The painting reflects Indian tradition, which features in most of his
The Victory of Buddha – ‘The Victory of Buddha’
depicts a portrait of Buddha after achieving enlightenment. It also answers
Buddha’s ultimate question pertaining to the human sufferings.
The Passing of Shah Jahan – This is a scene
straight out of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan’s final day. The picture depicts Shah
Jahan in his death bed, trying to get a final view of Taj Mahal, which would be
his final resting place.
Journey's End - Painted in the year 1913,
‘Journey's End’ depicts a tired looking camel, which looks more relieved than
happy after coming to an end of its journey.
Chaitanya with his followers on the sea beach
of Puri – As the name suggests, this painting is all about Chaitanya and his followers.
Radhika gazing at the portrait of Sri Krishna –
This is one of his many paintings based on the life of Lord Krishna. These
paintings were created during the early stages of his career.
Departure of Siddhartha – This painting
narrates the story behind Buddha’s departure, when he decides to leave behind
his wife and son for the greater good.
Aurangzeb examining the head of Dara – Painted
in the year 1911, this creation portrays the cruelty of Aurangzeb. In the
painting, Emperor Aurangzeb examines the severed head of his brother Dara.
Illustrations of Omar Khayyam – Painted in the
year 1909, this beautiful portrait depicts the illustrations of Omar Khayyam.Summer, from RituSanghar of Kalidasa –
Completed in the year 1905, this painting is about the legendary Indian poet
Birds and Animals series – As the name
suggests, this is a series of paintings that depict birds and animals. It was
painted in the year 1915.
The Call of the Flute – Painted in the year
1910, ‘The Call of the Flute’ narrates one of the many interesting stories from
the life of Lord Krishna.
started learning painting at the feet of Italian painter Boiess. Later he
abandoned European technique and style and became a disciple of the master
artist Abanindranath Tagore. Though in the early days of his career, Deviprasad
worked as a painter, later he devoted himself as a sculptor. His meticulous and
spontaneous endeavour in this direction earned him fame as a sculptor. His
monumental as well as life-size compositions deserve admiration of art
connoisseurs and viewers alike. Devi Prasad may be ranked among the eminent
artists of the twentieth century who absorbed oriental and occidental style of
art. Same of his notable works are: 'Ma' 'Sharad Pratima', 'Jiban-Sandhya'
'Surer Nesha' 'Gadi' where blending of western mode of perspective, composition
and oriental style of drawing made his works rhythmic and uncanny and at the
same time sublime and exquisite.
Devi Prasad created numerous sculptures. He was the first modern artist of
Bengal who worked on bronze. His monumental and life-size sculptures exemplify
qualities of movement, inherent energy and pensive mood. His sculptures
entitled 'Triumph of Labour' housed at Delhi, 'Shahid Smriti' placed in front
of Bihar Secretariat and 'Temple Entry Proclamation' at Tribandram, 'Gandhiji's
Dandi Obhijan' at Calcutta and portrait of 'Sir Ashutosh' etc are some of his
famous works. Two of his other famous portraits are of Bishop Lieubiter and
Annie Besant. Besides the arena of art world, Deviprasad's literary pursuits
made him all the more famous. Among his students Gopal Sen and Paritosh Ghosh
earned international repute as artists. Deviprasad Roychowdhury died on 14
sensitive master painter, a prolific writer, and a perceptive teacher, Dinkar
Kowshik, passed in February a decade ago in Santiniketan – a place he was
closely attached to – a place where his creativity was nurtured as a student,
and where, he in turn, nurtured the talent of many painters in the past four
decades that he lived there. He brought a fresh and a positive stimulus to Kala
Bhavan in Santiniketan when he took over as the principal of one of the most
celebrated art campuses in the world. This was the time when both Binode da and
Kinker da came into their elements again - and he got some of the great minds
in art to move to Santiniketan. Somenath Hore, K.G Subramanyan, Sharbari Rai
Choudhuri and others came to the institution to give it a new life and the
original creative edge.
Santiniketan, the ideas of Rabindranath Tagore on art and teaching continued
for a long time as a monumental model. Subsequently, there developed in the art
arena of Santikietan the three pillars of ideas – Nandalal Bose, Benode Behari
Mukherjee and Ramkinkar Baij. They together raised Santiniketan to a level of
unique eminence in the field of modern art in pre-independence India. In the
post-independence period, the revivalist idiom of the Bengal School of Art was
discarded and a new momentum was visible in the works of many artists. Dinkar
Kowshik was a prominent name in the star-studded group. Protest is the very
core of the modern vision in contemporary art. Amongst the other prominent
names associated with the art arena at Santiniketan in the post-independence
era are K.G. Subramanyan and Somnath Hore.
quiet and an unassuming person, Dinkar exuded calmness and happiness – so
visible on his canvasses too. The
rootedness and the reaching-out that mark the Visva Bharati ethos is apparent
in Dinkar Kowshik (1918-2011) himself. After all, he’d imbibed its searching
eclecticism as a student in the 1940s, and infused this legacy with
contemporary practices as the Kala Bhavan principal in the late 1970s.
December 2019 show at Birla Academy paid a tribute to the artist and academic
by bringing together more than 200 works by his teachers, associates and
students, and included some 18 by Kowshik himself. Semi-geometric oil figures
that are like spry cut-outs; dappled watercolour stains; a chatty litho of tiny
marks and scratches: they gave the viewer a taste of his explorations.
Roy started off his career as a portrait painter but wasn’t entirely happy
about being a portrait painter who worked for commission. It was in the year
1925 that he heard his true calling outside the famous Kalighat temple in
Calcutta. After observing a few Kalighat paintings, displayed outside the
temple, Jamini instinctively knew what his preference and interest was, when it
came to art. He knew that the Bengali folk art could be used as a stone to
bring down not two but three birds –a way to simplify and portray the lives of
common people; to make his art accessible to all; to bring back the glory of
Indian art. From that moment onwards, his paintings started reflecting the
Kalighat style of art. By the early 1930s, Jamini Roy became fully conversant
with the lines of the Kalighat idiom and produced a greater number of art
In 1938, his art works became the first Indian
paintings to be displayed at a British-ruled street in Calcutta. Jamini’s
thought process began to bear fruit in the 1940s when his works were bought by
average middle-class Indians. What surprised him though was the interest shown
by the European community towards purchasing his paintings. With the passage of
time, his paintings were only reflecting the indigenous art of Kalighat
painting, along with the terracotta's of the Bishnupur temple. In the following
years, his works were exhibited at prestigious shows in places like London and
New York City. By now, Jamini Roy had accomplished what he had intended to do
when he first switched over from the Western classical styleto the folk art of Bengal.
of his Notable Works include:
Ramayana – Art lovers and critics would
unanimously agree that his 1946 masterpiece ‘Ramayana’ is his magnum opus.
Created using Kalighatpata style, this particular work of his is a series of
paintings portrayed across 17 canvases. Roy used vegetable colours and pigments
derived from natural elements to narrate his version of the great Indian epic.
Sarada Charan Das, the successor of K.C. Das, bought the entire series, which
now adorns the walls of his residence ‘Rossogolla Bhavan.’ The residence boasts
of the artist’s largest private collection with 25 of his original paintings.
Jamini Roy also came up with individual episodes of Ramayana, some of which are
now displayed in places like the National Art Gallery of India and the Victoria
Dual Cats with one Crayfish - Jamini Roy,
during his lifetime, came up with a number of paintings portraying cats, which
are now collectively called as the cat series. This particular art was created
in the year 1968. The painting looks somewhat restrained when it comes to the
usage of colours but has a distinctive style to it.
Bride and two Companions – Painted in the year
1952, this particular piece stands out for its majestic indigo of Bengal.
Critics described this painting as having a meaning and reason attached to
every aspect of it.
Crucifixion with Attendant Angels – This
painting depicts the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Opaque watercolor is used on
a material that is made out of woven palm fiber.
Krishna and Balarama – Lord Krishna is depicted
along with his brother Balarama in this painting. Roy had used distinct earthy colours
against a majestic red color backdrop.
Santal Boy with Drum – Jamini Roy came up with
a number of paintings depicting the Santal tribe as the people belonging to
this particular tribe fascinated him. This particular painting was created in
the year 1935.
Krishna and Radha Series – Roy created a series
of paintings depicting the colorful life of
Radha and Krishna. He even painted
the life of Krishna along with his other Gopis (girlfriends).
Makara – ‘Makara’ is a strange looking sea
animal mentioned in the mythological tales of ancient India. Roy created this
painting in the year 1945. While most of his paintings revolve around people,
one might wonder what prompted him to paint this mythological creature.
St. Ann and the Blessed Virgin – All his
paintings that represented the Christian iconography had Hindu idioms, making
his works that much more interesting. This particular painting had three
versions and was created in the year 1945.
Seated Woman in Sari – This is arguably one of
the most recognizable works of Jamini Roy. It was created in the year 1947.
bare bones of Shyam’s story are well-known enough: he was discovered in
Patangarh, Madhya Pradesh, and mentored by artist Jagdish Swaminathan, who was
the then director of Bharat Bhavan, a multi-art complex and museum in Bhopal.
Shyam, despite little education and no training in art, was a quick study. He
soon developed his unique artistic language, using it to convey memories of his
childhood and the stories of gods, men and beasts that were his cultural
were hypnotic: dots and dashes in various hues depicted birds like the
red-wattled lapwing and the brown wood owl along with an assortment of trees,
gods and goddesses worshipped by the Gondi people, an adivasi tribe indigenous
to Central India. He is known as one of the greatest Gond artists in history,
spawning an entire branch of Gond art named after him, called ‘Jangarh Kalam’. Shyam
was one of the first artists to include images of Gondi gods and goddesses like
Bada Dev, the great god and Medi Ki Mata or the protector of the grains,
Mashwasi Devi and even Raksa the Gond demon.
exhibited nationally and internationally, becoming a well-respected artist and
gaining prestigious commissions, including the painting of murals at the
Charles Correa-designed Vidhan Bhavan in Bhopal. In 2001, however, Shyam hanged
himself in his room during a residency at the Mithila Museum in Tokamachi, Japan.
It is believed that he took his own life because he was depressed about being
forced to stay back longer than he wanted and produce more work than he wished
Raj is a descendant of a family of traditional Jaipur painters, and was
strongly influenced by his grandfather (Nanu Lal) and by work of his
great-grandfather (Amba Shankhar). His family is one of the few who managed to
keep their traditional art alive throughout the 20th century, by continuing to
serve as painters for the Jaipur royal family. Today, Kailash Raj is the master
artist of his workshop, with several apprentices under his tutelage. In
addition, he serves as a mentor to young artists from other areas of Rajasthan,
who travel to him for guidance and inspiration. Although schooled in the family
Jaipuri tradition (previously known as Amber school), Kailash has studied
Mughal and regional styles intensively, and he and his workshop produce fine
works inspired by other schools.
Bose is credited with designing the original manuscript of the Indian
Constitution and emblems of India's highest civilian award Bharat Ratna. He
also designed the Padma Shri. The contribution of Nandalal Bose to Indian art
is unparalleled. He is known for being the man behind the creation of a new age
art movement in India.
young artist, Nandalal Bose was influenced by the murals of the Ajanta Caves,
built around 400-650 AD, described as one of the finest examples of Indian art.
Nandalal Bose sketched the emblems for the Government of India's awards,
including the Bharat Ratna and the Padma Shri Nandalal Bose and his disciple
Ramkinkar took up the historic task of decorating the original manuscript of
the Constitution of India.
Bose exhibited his paintings for the first time in 1911. Thereafter, the works
of Nandalal Bose were displayed at several national as well as international
exhibitions. Some of them include those at Crystal Palace of England, Societe
des Peintres Orientalistes Francais at Grand Palais in Paris, The Netherlands
& Imperial Institute of England, Indian School of Oriental Art, American
Federation of Art, Athenee Gallery of Geneva, Centenary Retrospective
Exhibition, National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi, etc. Even the Lucknow
and Haripura Session of the Indian National Congress exhibited the works of Nandalal
Bose. In the year 1976, his works were included among the ‘Nine Masters’ by the
Archaeological Survey of India. The works included in the ‘Nine Masters’, are
considered as art treasures because of their artistic and aesthetic value.
Bose's students included legends like Benode Behari Mukherjee, Ramkinkar Baij,
Beohar Rammanohar Sinha, KG Subramanyan, Henry Dharmasena, Pratima Thakur,
Ramananda Bandopadhyay, Satyajit Ray, Dinkar Kaushik among others.
the last six decades, Indian art and architecture has been greatly benefited,
thanks to the fickle-minded nature of Satish Gujral. Because of his ability to
get bored of things easily, he kept changing his profession, but perfected each
one of them. At the end of it all, the man turned into one of the most
brilliant multi-faceted personalities India has ever seen. Though he wouldn’t
agree to it, art has remained his constant love, even as he experimented with
it like no other lover would. Over the years, he has constantly changed his
medium and materials in order to differentiate his art from that of his
previous creation. Known for creating some of the most exquisite paintings, murals
and sculptures, Satish Gujral is one of the greatest as well as the most
versatile artists of India. He also ventured into architecture, even as people
criticized him for doing so since he was already successful as an artist. Had
he not ventured into architecture fearing failure, India wouldn’t have got one
of the finest buildings of the 20th century – the Belgium Embassy, situated in
initial stages of his career, his work was heavily influenced by the suffering
of people who lost their homes and families because of the partition of the
country. The Partition of India and the associated agony of the immigrants
impacted a young Satish and manifested itself in the artworks he created. From
1952 to 1974, Gujral organised shows of his sculptures, paintings and graphics
in many cities across the world such as New York City, New Delhi, Montreal,
Berlin and Tokyo, among others. Since he had witnessed the cruel act
first-hand, he couldn’t help but to incorporate his personal experience in his
creations. Later on, he realized that people would not appreciate the same kind
of art over and over again and hence started to change his style of work.
Slowly, Satish started diversifying his sculptural materials with machined
industrialized objects made up of steel, copper, glass, etc., and even gave
life to sculptures by using junk materials.
period of 1952 to 1974 saw Satish Gujral organizing solo shows all over the
world. The shows featured his sculptures, paintings and graphics. The cities in
which he organized his shows include Mexico City, New York, New Delhi, Bombay,
Calcutta, Montreal, Rome, Berlin, Tokyo, Buenos Aires and Stockholm. Since the
late 1980s, paintings and sculptures of Satish Gujral have shown a greater
expansion, both in terms of materials as well as content. He started making
large murals, mostly in mosaic and ceramic tiles. Later, machined steel
elements overtook the tiles. Satish Gujral's sculptures, made out of burnt
wood, come across as visceral exposure of human and other forms.
matter what the subject matter is, Satish Gujral creates his works after
understanding their nuances and the history behind them. This gives his works
depth and sets them apart from the works of his contemporaries. Like many great
artists, Satish too, is a master of creating modern art without disturbing its
tradition, for there lingers the real beauty of any art.
the most distinguished artists of the Indian subcontinent, Sayed Haider Raza,
simply known as S.H. Raza, is famous for his usage of rich colours in all his
portrays. During the initial stages of his career, Syed Haider Raza’s paintings
mainly revolved around expressionistic landscapes. His very first show was held
at Bombay Art Society, even before he moved to France. Though he finished his
education in 1953, he chose to remain in Paris, as he thought that his works
would receive appreciation from the European art lovers. For this reason, he
even travelled across most parts of Europe. During his stay in Paris, Raza was
highly influenced by its landscape and incorporated it in his creations. He
also painted the landscapes of his mind which looked more abstract than
expressive. He also incorporated elements of Indian scriptures and other things
Indian that would make his art look more impressive and meaningful. In 1962, he
started serving as a visiting lecturer at the University of California,
Berkeley, USA. There, he influenced many American painters and taught them the
nuances of incorporating interesting Indian elements into modern art.
paintings of S.H. Raza revolve mainly around nature and its various facets.
Over the years, his paintings evolved from being purely expressionist
landscapes to abstract ones. He believes the Bindu (dot) to be the center of
creation and existence and his works reflect this particular thinking. Even
though the vibrancy of his paintings had become subtle later on in his career,
the dynamism remained as alive as ever.
Sharan Agarwal (1904 - 1967) was a writer of India's history, culture, art, and
literature. He received the Sahitya Akademi Award for his book Padmavat
Sanjivani Vyakhya. Born in Vaishya family, brought up in Lucknow, Vasudev
Sharan Agarwal received PhD in 1941, and was awarded D.Litt in 1946. He headed
Archaeological Museum, Mathura. In 1951, he joined Banaras Hindu University as
a professor of Indology. He has written nearly 200-250 works in his lifetime.
His literature revolves around Hindi and Sanskrit, most of them being written
in “Khadi Hindi Boli”. He was also deeply interested in penning essays,
translations and chapters. His famous works include Meghdoot, Harshcharit,
Padmavat, Markandeya Puran, Kirtilata, Bharat Savitri, Bharatiya Dharma Mimansa
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