Nine artists whose work is art treasures
The Archaeological Survey of India had declared in 1976 and 1979, the works of the following nine artists “not being antiquities, to be art treasures, having regard to their artistic and aesthetic value.” Here is a brief introduction; sourced from the ASI website.
- 1976: Rabindranath Tagore, Amrita Sher-Gil, Jamini Roy and Nandalal Bose
- 1979: Raja Ravi Varma, Gaganendranath Tagore, Abanindranath Tagore, Sailoz Mookherjea and Nicholas Roerich.
Raja Ravi Varma
The nineteenth century witnessed a change in the style of art that was institutionalized by the newly set up art schools encouraging British system of art education in India. It was in this context that Raja Ravi Varma (1848 -1906) came to be recognized as the first important Indian artist.
He struggled to introduce many new elements into Indian painting – perspective, European drawing, construction and composition and a new medium that is oil.
The twentieth century saw a reaction against the existing western academic art education and emergence of a new movement towards “Modern Indian Art”.
Abanindranath Tagore (1871-1951) was the first major artistic figure to evolve a national style and a school of painting “The Bengal School”. The sources of his inspiration were the frescoes of Ajanta, the Rajput miniature tradition, Chinese scrolls, Japanese woodcuts and the Shilpa Shastras.
The new artistic canon was also epitomized by Nandalal Bose (1882-1966), another artist of the Bengal School. He was the first Indian artist to react meaningfully to the various linguistic facets of the Indian Art tradition.
He had a great breadth of sensibility and technical range. He made special efforts to establish contact between Indian artisans and artists. He pioneered experiments in modern Indian sculpture, fresco and graphics.
The artistic career of Gaganendranath Tagore (1867-1938) was marked by bold originality of conception and execution of many themes in different styles.
His open attitude towards experimenting with Japanese and modern western art, from futurism and cubism to the ideas of German expressionism and his caricature albums reflecting social and religious hypocrisies of his times, mark him as a pioneer in this field.
A very different journey was being pursued by another artist Jamini Roy (1887-1972). He was the first Indian artist to draw sustainable inspiration from the living folk and tribal art forms and tradition.
The colours he used were also drawn from folk usage both in their selection and in their making. His art derived its strength in his ability to distill the design in the pictorial space to the barest essential.
Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) gave artistic priority to the free creative spirit within a local-national-Pan Asian-Universal framework that made him stand out as a true artistic visionary.
He created a new unity by welding together of many arts and movements. Bold and compact spatial design, a sombreness of palette, a matted tapestry of graphic textures and use of small range of materials highlight his works.
Amrita Sher-Gil (1913-1941) evolved a technique, which was essentially Indian in spirit and highlighted by emphasis on colour.
The content of her paintings evolved based on her experience of the Indian reality – the people and the environment. She was the window of India onto the international expression in art.
Nicholas Roerich (1874-1947) who moved to India in 1936 expressed a sense of freedom through the imagery of nature’s vastness juxtaposed with the solitariness of the human.
Enchanted by the Himalayas, Roerich painted them not only to show their physical grandeur but as a symbolist to unravel the mountain’s soul. Interwoven in his artistic visions are his philosophies on life.
Sailoz Mookherjea (1906-1960) pursued an inner creative journey exuding a sense of joy in his expressionism, focusing on the lyrical nature of line and an outburst of warm colours.
The simplification of form and vibrancy were derived from his years in Europe and inspiration from works of Matisse but his main influences were folk art and Basohli miniatures. He focused on themes such as oneness with nature and rural serenity.