“The uses of art are indeed many. When it gives us true portraits of the great ones of the earth, not only are their features, instinct as they may be with genius, or patriotism, or Holiness, an inspiration to those who gaze on them, but we can observe their habits of life, their manners, their dress, the architecture of their times, and the religious worship of the period in which they lived.”
Excerpt from Modern Review pg 84; Volume 1, Numbers 1 to 6; 1907.
The 19th century and early 20th century witnessed a significant shift in Indian Art. The milieu created by the socio-cultural and political atmosphere gave rise to a new patronage in art as well as the establishment of various centers for art. A host of different medium and techniques were brought into India which defined the image and status of the Indian artist. The inaugural exhibition, Hidden Stories, throws light on the developments, which took place in major centers including Bombay and Calcutta during this time.
An unusual dialogue took place between the western painters that migrated into India and the local Indian students of art, each following the western academic style of painting fashionable at the time. The new art schools imparted the techniques of academic painting to the young artists whilst on the other hand, in areas such as Calcutta, the artisans absorbed the European style without any formal training to cater to the demand for oil on canvas. While the academically trained strived for excellence in the technique of landscape and portraiture, the artisans created a new style of art. The latter combined European landscapes with mythological figures depicted in styles borrowed from miniature traditions, which originated from centers such as Murshidabad.
Weaving between creations by academically trained Masters including Jamini Prakash Gangooly, Antonio Xavier Trinadade, Manchershaw F Pithawala and Mahadev Vishwanath Dhurandhar and the untrained and unknown local artists, the exhibition explores the contrast in the stylistic qualities between the artisan and the academic artist, highlighting the ‘Indian-ness’ and the techniques used to address the contexts in which they were created. Through the stylizations and expressions, the subject depicted, and the hybrid combination of the background and foreground, one can unearth the ‘Hidden Stories’ behind each canvas allowing the viewer to explore a small part of the history of Indian Art.