A History of Indian Painting: The Modern Period

A History of Indian Painting: The Modern Period
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Preface In the case of not only large regions of the world where specific cultural traditions have emerged and evolved over extended periods but of even much smaller communities like nation-states, many studies – descriptive, historical, critical – are available. Indian painting is acknowledged to be one of the most precious legacies inherited by mankind as a whole. But a comprehensive history was lacking and it was for amending this serious anomaly that, about two decades ago, Abhinav ...

Preface

In the case of not only large regions of the world where specific cultural traditions have emerged and evolved over extended periods but of even much smaller communities like nation-states, many studies – descriptive, historical, critical – are available. Indian painting is acknowledged to be one of the most precious legacies inherited by mankind as a whole. But a comprehensive history was lacking and it was for amending this serious anomaly that, about two decades ago, Abhinav and I took up the landmark project of a detailed history of Indian painting and managed to bring out four volumes: Mural Traditions (1976); Manuscript, Moghul and Deccani Traditions (1979); Rajasthani Traditions (1982); Pahari Traditions (1984). This is the fifth and final volume.

But it comes a whole decade after the fourth volume. The delay cannot be justified but at least an explanation seems to be due. A shade unbalanced perhaps, I try to do too many things at the same time. Along with the project on the history of painting, I was completed in 1982. It involved an almost total reconstruction of thought and by the time it was completed I realized that all the redemptive insights one can gain from a reconstruction of philosophy were already there in our poetry. To clarify this, I worked on what I call my Krishna trilogy: The Mahabharata, A Literary Study (1985); The Gita for Modern Man (1986); The Betrayal of Krishna: Vicissitudes of a Great Myth(1991). By the time this was finished, I realized that I too was, more or less. I was sevety-three and in extremely poor health. Though I felt that it would be a pity if I did not complete my history of Indian painting with a final volume on the modern period, I did not have the energy to take it up, nor the feeling that I had enough time left to complete it..

This was really a period of the dark night of the soul and I am glad that I happened to mention it to Roshan Alkazi. The final consequence was redemptive but the immediate rather painful. I had to face some grilling, some merciless probings about my ontology. Was I a man or a mouse? Where did I mislay my spine? Coming from somebody who, in spite of her indifferent health, was working steadily on a monumental history of Indian costume, I had to grin and take it. And, but for this third degree, I would not have completed this job.

The fourth volume had closed with the exhaustion of the Rajput schools bringing the story up to the end of the eighteenth century. A stereotype of current art history is the assumption that the nineteenth century saw almost a total decline of the arts in India. I have been able to present ample data to show that, at the level of folk culture, the visual arts continued to flourish with very little loss of vigour. The volume has many further paradoxes to reveal. The revival of classical art in the first decades of the twentieth century was in spite of its loud claims seriously flawed; but the even louder claims made by the many 'Progressive' groups in their manifestos at the time of Independence were swiftly forgotten; art became formalist and took to imitating the fashions of art had proliferated into many dialects and Indian artists would have remained illiterate if they had not learned to discourse in all of them.

In this volume I have traced numerous fascinating ways in which genes in the gene pool of tradition have formed fresh linkages, modulated and mutated to modernism. In fact this is what we have to look for in the contemporary scene, for unilinear evolution stopped long ago and looking for orthogeny (development over a definite trajectory to a specific speciation) would be orthomania as G.G. Simpson said of biological evolution. A very young artist takes a fresh look at the Alpana decorative drawing and tries to derive a modernist abstract from it. Another equally young artist recovers the design, now a little more supple and piquant, for a traditional purpose: as jewellery for an icon. But this icon is that of Manasa, a chthonic, tellurian goddess, not a deity of the classical pantheon. And a new iconism is emerging as a significant movement to revitalize our perception of the numinous. This brings us to another and very important point. While, in order to be art, aesthetic and formal criteria have to be fulfilled, in order to be great art, some alliance to great human ends has to be forged. My evaluation of art has kept this consistently in mind and it has revealed modern Indian art to be as spiritual as the traditional, though in its own strange way which has occasionally involved the seemingly irreverent parody of myth to make it yield profounder meaning.

One history is poor archival provision for an over-two-thousand-year-old tradition and Indian art history will have come of age only when we have at least a dozen histories; we can get that many on British and Dutch painting today. The sad state of archival documentation also explains why it has become so difficult to get dates of birth and death of our artists. When I have succeeded I have given the data with the index. Here the entries follow the alphabetical order of the surnames but there is no inversion giving the surname first. Thus, the entry will be 'Biswanath Mukerje' not 'Mukerji, Biswanath'; but it will be under 'M'.

For the rest the reader is now going to an encounter with his luck and I do hope he is not let down.

From the Jacket:

Despite the fact that Indian painting is among the most precious legacies inherited by mankind as a whole, literature about it is not as adequate as it should be and a comprehensive history was lacking. It was for amending this serious anomaly that Krishna Chaitanya and Abhinav took up the landmark project of a detailed history of Indian painting and, during the period 1976-1984, managed to bring out four volumes. This is the fifth volume.

The fourth volume had closed with the exhaustion of the Rajput schools bringing the story up to the end of the eighteenth century. A stereotype of current art history is the assumption that the nineteenth century saw almost a total decline of the arts in India. The volume presents ample data to show that, at the level of folk culture, the visual arts continued to flourish with very little loss of vigour. It has many further paradoxes to reveal. The revival of classical art in the first decades of the twentieth century was in spite of its loud claims seriously flawed; but the even louder claims made by the many 'Progressive' groups in their manifestors at the time of Independence were swiftly forgotten; art became formalist and took to imitating the fashions of the west. It is now the fashion to deride this, but the language of art had proliferated into many dialects and Indian artists would have remained illiterate if they had not learned to discourse in all of them.

The volume has traced numerous fascinating ways in which genes in the gene pool of tradition have modulated and mutated to modernism. While, in order to be art, aesthetic and formal criteria have to be fulfilled, in order to be great art, some alliance to great human ends has to be forged. The evaluation of art has kept this consistently in mind and it has revealed modern Indian art to be as spiritual, though in its own strange way, as the traditionsl.

About the Author:

Krishna Chaitanya whom Edward Goldsmith, leading international campaigner on environment and winner of the Alternative Nobel Prize refers to in his book The Way: An Ecological World View, as "possibly the greatest polymath of an time" and the national media have rated as "one of the most original thinkers of the twentieth century" (Hindustan Times), "our nearest approximation to the Renaissance Man" (Indian Express), a writer who has made "singular contribution to the advancement of thought, art and science in our times" (Time of India) and as "one of the most prolific and luminous intellects of our times" (Economic Times), has written over forty books outline summaries of all of which are available in Krishna Chaitana, a Profile and Selected Papers edited by Suguna Ramachandran (Konark, 1991). The main categories are: a five-volume philosophy of freedom, which critics have compared to the works of St. Thomas Aquinas, the French Encyclopedists, Herbert Spencer, Bergson, Whitehead and Teilhard de Spencer, Bergon, Whitehead and Teilhard de Chardin; a ten-volume history of world literature; Indological works including a book on Indian culture, a history of Sanskrit literature, a literary study of the Mahabharata, the most comprehensive book so far on Sanskrit poetics and a translation and commentary of the Gita; and books on Indian art. He got the "Critic of Ideas" award of the Institute of International Education, New York in 1964, the Jawaharlal Nehru Fellowship in 1978, Honorary Membership of the International Cultural Society of Korea, Seoul in 1982, D.Litt. (honoris Causa) of the Rabindrabharati University in 1986, the Padma Shri in 1992 and the Kalidasa award of the International Institute of Indian Studies, Ottawa in 1993.

 

CONTENTS

 

CHAPTER ONE: A TWILIT LANDSCAPE
I. Painting in the Sikh Epoch 1
II. The Later Rajput Period 19
III. The Maratha Epoch 25
IV. Painting in Tanjore 27
V. Painting in Karnataka

 

35
CHAPTER TWO: A BRIGHTER PANORAMA
I. Tribal Painting 43
II. Paintings for Bardic Recitals 51
III. Tantra 58
IV. Symbolic Art in Folk Ritual 72
V. Art of Calligraphy 76
VI. Pichhavais and Orissan Pats 84
VII. Kalamkari 92
VIII. Madhubani Painting

 

94
CHAPTER THREE: CHALLENGE AND RESPONSE
I. Company Painting 101
II. Kalighat Painting 112
III. Popular Painting to Pop Art 119
IV.

 

Ravi Varma

 

127

 

CHAPTER FOUR: REVIVALIST PAINTING
I. Havell and Revivalist Doctrine 135
II. Abanindranath and Revivalist Practice 144
III.

 

Revivalism in Retrospect

 

162

 

CHAPTER FIVE: THE PIONEERS OF MODERNISM
I. Jamini Roy 175
II. Amrita Shergil 181
III. Gaganendranath 191
IV. Rabindranath Tagore 198
V.

 

Three Painters of Santiniketan

 

212

 

CHAPTER SIX: CURTAIN-RISE ON CONTEMPORARY SCENE
I. A Vision and Its Fading 225
II. Mastering the Instrumentalities 238
III.

 

New Sprouts from Old Roots

 

253

 

CHAPTER SEVEN: ART AND AMBIENCE
I. Retreat and Encounter 265
II. Ambient Nature 272
III.

 

The World of Men

 

285

 

CHAPTER EIGHT: APOCALYPSE AND REDEMPTION
I. Art and Life 293
II. Apocalyptic Images 301
III. Redemptive Gleams 315
  INDEX 327

 

Sample Pages





















Item Code: IDE416 Author: Krishna Chaitanya Cover: Hardcover Edition: 1994 Publisher: Abhinav Publications ISBN: 8170173108 Language: English Size: 8.6" X 11.0" Pages: 330 (Color Illus: 54, B & W Illus: 166) Other Details: Weight of the Book: 1.838 kg
Price: $95.00
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