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At the beginning of 19th century under the influence of the British Raj, Indian art displayed a general decline. The craft and techniques of fresco and miniature paintings which were unique in the history of art, were nearly lost. Miniatures were ousted by European oil painting. Towards the turn of the century, traditional Indian painting faded out and it was the time for Indian artists to look at their heritage with positive approach and advance from the earlier European Colonial Art.
After the decline of Mughal empire and the end of classical and medieval art of India. Contemporary art began with the British rule in India. Raja Ravi Varma, Abanindranath Tagore, Amrita Shergil, Rabindra Nath Tagore, and Jamini Roy, were the pioneers of contemporary Indian Art. These young artists were more exposed to the western art movements. German Expressionism, Cubism, Fauvism, Dadaism and Surrealism left great influence on these Indian painters, but at the same time, their struggle to retain Indian identity continued. A combination of western technique and Indian spiritualism became the essence of Indian art at this stage. Along with the western methods and materials, they also tried to use the far eastern methods of painting. Lot of experiments were done with print making (Woodcut, Lithograph, Etching etc.). Pradosh Das Gupta, Prankrishna Pal, Nirode Mazumder, Paritosh Sen and others of Calcutta group held the first show in 1943 and the progressive Artists group of Bombay exhibited the paintings of F.N. Souza, Raza, M.F. Hussain, K.H. Ara and others in 1947. While some artists were experimenting with western style, others like Benode Behari Mukherjee, Ramkinkar Vaij, Sailoz Mukherjee, showed inclination towards Japanese art and Folk Art. Two of Bengal School artists, Devi Prosad Roy Chowdhury and Saroda Ukil played fundamental roles in introducing modern art movement in the Northern and Southern parts of India. K.C.S. Panikar and Srinivasalu, students of D.P. Roy choudhury, made their mark in contemporary Art while Saroda Ukil established an Art School in Delhi.
Later, artists like Amrita Shergil drew on both Western and Indian traditions. Her contribution in the field of art retains her unique position as the first lady of the modern Indian art. All these artists produced remarkable works in the history of contemporary Indian Art.