In an attempt to dispel her daughter’s pain and relieve her mind of the turmoil it is boiling with, the affectionate mother clasps her to her bosom – her inexhaustible support and stay. She seems to be consoling her by her gesture, besides by her words, as if assuring her daughter that she has behind her a mother as formidable as a rock. She assumes on her lips a smile, and a body-language assuring her daughter that she is not worried or upset and that such tit-bits do occur in early married life, and that once the two understood each other everything would set right; however, whatever her words, or the meaning of her smile or of her gesture, in the corners of her eyes lurks a deep concern and anxiety over her daughter’s future. As for her daughter, the pain in her eyes is deeper than the words and gesture of her mother can dilute. Her fast gripped hands reveal her mood: a turbulent mind but determined to finally decide: this or that.
This aspect of portrait-painting, not portraying merely the physique : the exterior, but also the mind : a person’s interior, his intrinsic being, a feature that the painters of the late nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries added to Indian art, was for certain a European element which infused into Indian art fresh life vigour and gave it unique breadth, especially in portraying the variety of emotional situations inherent to Indian life – individual and social, and so foreign to the life in Europe. This assimilation of the variety of emotional situations of Indian life and the technique and emphasis of the European art on portraying a person or situation inside-out attributed to modern Indian painting a place beyond par and its foremost champion was Raja Ravi Varma, one of the founders of this new art form.
Himself from a royal family and hence well versed in courtly lifestyle Raja Ravi Varma brought to canvas on one hand kings, queens, princes, princesses and others, and their regalia, surroundings and courtly culture, and on the other, a sensitive artist as he was linked to grass-root and hence not unknown to plight of Indian masses, he infused into them the common man’s woes, worries and concerns not seen in art anywhere ever before. This infusion of a common mother’s concern into a royal-mother’s portrayal, as attempts this canvas, and attempts it wonderfully well, has been the outstanding feature of Raja Ravi Varma’s portraits. This painting, a thematic rendition as also a portrait, a depiction of the tradition as reveals in the ensembles and jewellery of the two figures and in the mother’s concern for her daughter, as also a departure from it as reflects in the modus of treating its subject, adheres in its exactness to a painting by Raja Ravi Varma portraying this very situation, in its spirit, sensitive treatment and style and form. As in the painting of Raja Ravi Varma, this contemporary art-piece pays as much attention to portraying the beauty of form as to revealing the two figures’ minds. The background is dark but not formless. Identically to the mind of the young girl, the darkness in the background is the product of the diffusion of forms, not their absence.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.