Rise of contemporary Indian painters

In 1867, EB Havel was appointed the Principal of the Art College at Calcutta. He, as we discussed above, gave greater importance to the art traditions of this country, instead of those of Europe. However, he himself was not able to produce some outstanding works. This task was taken up by Abanindranath Tagore and the result was the Bengal School of Art. This school proclaimed Raja Ravi Varma, who was a leading practitioner of the academic style, to be in bad taste. Whatever its shortcomings, the Bengal School restored to health the indigenous tradition in painting and infused self-confidence among the Indian artists. This school was followed by the Santiniketan School, led by Rabindranath Tagore’s harking back to idyllic rural folk and rural life. By the time of Independence in 1947, several schools of art in India provided access to modern techniques and ideas. Galleries were established to showcase these artists. This was the dawn of Modern Indian Paintings.

The Calcutta Group

The Calcutta Group was the first group of modern artists in India, formed in 1943 in Kolkata. Its leading members included the sculptor Pradosh Das Gupta and the painters Subho Tagore, Paritosh Sen, Gopal Ghose, Nirode Mazumdar and Zainul Abedin. The group held exhibitions from 1945, and held a joint exhibition in 1950 with the Progressive Artists’ Group in Bombay.

This group of artists expressed the need for a visual language that could reflect the crisis of urban society. For the first time in modern Indian art, artists began to paint images that evoked anguish and trauma and reflected the urban situation. Rural scenes were no longer purely idyllic, and the formal treatment of the paintings began to reflect the influence of European modernism.

Progressive Artists’ Group, Bombay

Progressive Artists’ Group, Bombay was established Francis Newton Souza, first post-independence Indian artist to achieve high recognition in the West. It’s early members were S. H. Raza. M. F. Husain and Manishi Dey.

Other prominent painters of the group included S. K. Bakre, Akbar Padamsee, Ram Kumar and Tyeb Mehta.

They wanted to paint with absolute freedom for content and technique. This group was basically an omnium-gatherum of different styles and influences. The most important influence on the group was of European Modernism. The group later lost into oblivion in late 1950s.

Objective of the Progressive Artists’ Group

The objective of the Progressive Artists’ Group was to break away with the revivalist nationalism established by the Bengal school of art and to encourage an Indian avant-garde, engaged at an international level. The group was highly influenced by the Indian inner version or the antar-gyan and the same was now being portrayed in their art rather than the European realism.

Young Turks

Beside the Calcutta Group, there was another group called the Young Turks, among whom P. T. Reddy was the prominent member. The Young Turks encouraged by Charles Gerrard, principal of Sir J.J. School of Art held their first exhibition in 1941. Then there were Bhabesh Sanyal and Sailoz Mukherjee, who left Calcutta. The first went to Lahore and the second came to Delhi in search of employment. These artists find prominent place in the National Gallery of Modern Arts collection.

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