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PAINTINGS - 19th Century onwards

*24 Aug 2021
Jamini Roy
In the 1920s, many experiments in art practices took place in Calcutta and Santiniketan. Amidst this activity, the story of Jamini Roy, who turned to the folk arts of Bengal, is remarkable. Although trained at the Government School of Art, Calcutta, Roy’s artistic impulses were rooted in his growing years in Beliatore village in the Birbhum district of undivided Bengal at that time. Roy adopted the simplification of the forms, the bold, flat colours and the medium, material and themes of local folk paintings. He discarded expensive canvas and oil paint and opted for the more inexpensive material and medium of the folk artist. He rendered images from Ramayana and Krishna Lila. He painted ordinary men and women from the village, reinventing popular images from the patua’s repertoire. Jamini Roy restricted his palette to seven colours- Indian red, yellow ochre, cadmium green, vermillion, grey, blue and white. These were mostly earthy or mineral colours. The appropriation of folk idioms manifested in various ways. There was a phase in which he adopted the calligraphic brush lines of Kalighat Patuas to create sophisticated forms. The austerity of lines only serves to highlight Roy’s superb control over brush. The lines drown lyrically and sometimes even sensuously with lampblack over white or pale gray background show not only vigour, but also the poetry latent in the human form. The paintings Baul and Woman Seated are excellent example of this style. Roy brought the sensibilities of a formerly educated artist to his appropriation of folk idiom. He can not escape sophistication in his figuration. Moreover the monumentality that he often brings to his figuration recalls the quality of classical sculptures.

Jamini Roy - Pinterest collection

*23 Aug 2021
R.Krishna Rao was a student of the Government College of Fine Arts and Crafts in Chennai.  He later served as a Prof and Principal of the college. He excelled in water colour paintings depicting the Tamilnadu temple structures and street scenes and people. With minimum strokes and details, he managed to capture the essence of any scene.  He had the honour of designing the state emblem of Tamil Nadu.
R.Krishna Rao

* 3 Aug 2021
Modern Indian painting
The first renaissance of Indian art was seen in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the main champion of this movement being Raja Ravi Varma (1848 - 1906).  Ravi Varma initially studied painting in Madurai.  He received training in water colour painting from Rama Swami Naidu and in oil painting from portrait artist Theodore Jenson.  He created several masterpieces fusing his training in European academic art with themes from the Indian Epics, Puranas and national sentiment.

E.B.Havell, Principal of the Calcutta School of Arts was instrumental in re introducing the Indian spiritual ideas and he encouraged artists to follow the Mughal miniatures style.  One of the main artists who followed this style was Abanindranath Tagore (1871 - 1951), nephew of Rabindranath Tagore.
Abanindranath Tagore was influenced by Irish illustrations and Mughal miniatures.  In this style, he created a set of Radha Krishna paintings.  His most famous work is the one depicting Bharat Mata with four arms similar to Hindu Goddesses.

Abanindranth's student Nandalal Bose (1883 - 1966), was greatly influenced by the murals of the Ajanta Caves. He adopted several styles in his art.  He was the principal of Kala Bhavan, Santiniketan in 1922.
- Nandalal Bose was asked by Jawaharlal Nehru to sketch the emblems for the Government of India's awards, including the Bharat Ratna and the Padma Shri. Along with his disciple Rammanohar, Nandalal Bose took up the historic task of beautifying/decorating the original manuscript of the Constitution of India.

- Some of the prominent artists of Santiniketan school are Benode Behari Mukherjee, Ramkinkar Baij, Manu Parekh, Sankho Chaudhuri, Dinkar Kaushik, K. G. Subramanyan, Beohar Rammanohar Sinha, Krishna Reddy, A. Ramachandran, Sobha Brahma, Ramananda Bandhapadhyay, Dharma Narayan Dasgupta, Sushen Ghose, Janak Jhankar Narzary.
References: A History of Fine Arts in India and the West by Edith Tomory published by Orient Longman p.279 ;

* 29 Jul 2021
Elizabeth Sass Brunner and her daughter Elizabeth Brunner came to India in 1930 from Hungary. They travelled extensively and became aware of the deep thinking that was manifested in the masterpieces of Hindu and Buddhist art, besides being impressed by the magnificent and varied phenomena of nature which is reflected in their paintings. The Brunners were charmed by India, its people, their way of life. They came to India in an era when great people lived and worked for freedom and promoted love and peace among mankind. During their long stay, the Brunners roamed the vast world of India, reaffirming peace and harmony. Indian thought and philosophy left a deep impression on them, which is clearly expressed in their work.

(When Elizabeth was 19, she had a vision, a dream where an old man with silver hair was holding an oil lamp.  On seeing the flame flicker, Elizabeth ran to cover it so it would not be put out, on which the old man handed over the flame to her asking her to guard it and spread it across the world. Feeling sure that the silver haired man was none other than Rabindranath Tagore who had visited Budapest in 1926, they set out on their journey to India.)

The journey leading the Hungarian mother-daughter duo of Elizabeth Sass Brunner (ESB) and Elizabeth Brunner (EB) to the path of spirituality and knowledge was spurred by a dream in which Elizabeth Brunner sees Rabindranath Tagore.
India became their home where the two attained newer heights as artists. The artists recorded their myriad experiences, learnings, discoveries, emotions and encounters on their canvases which were to be later hailed as masterpieces.
“Their roots can be traced in the Hungarian art and even though they spent two years in Santiniketan, their way of expression which was expressionism, impressionism, pointillism was all very European. But these are just the forms. What is important is that they discovered India through art and raised awareness amongst Indians to discover their own heritage. What I wanted to show was not their physical journey but their spiritual journey. They came looking for something which they couldn't find anywhere else,” describes Imre Lazar, Director, Cultural Counsellor, Hungarian Information and Cultural Centre.
Source:  Discovering self by Shailaja Tripathi, The Hindu, May 20, 2010