British painters like Tilly Kettle, John Zoffany, John Smart, George Chinnary,
William Hodges and others painted in oil. The foundation for modern painting in
India was laid by the formation of art schools in Calcutta and other cities
under the British influence at the beginning of the 20th century. This period
saw the emergence of an Indo-European genre of painting known as the
In this period, Indians were not only fighting for political independence, but
were also liberating themselves from their traditional mind-sets and trappings.
Much of the art of this era depicts this newly emerging social consciousness.
Verma of Kerala was perhaps the first great modern painter in India. He evolved
a national style of painting by combining various regional elements like
costumes, jewellery and facial features. His paintings, which mostly depicted
mythological themes, became very popular not only in India but abroad. His
illustrations of Ramayana and Mahabharata were the most appealing
visual representations of that time.
He won a gold medal at the World Art Exhibition, Vienna, for his picture
Nair Lady Adorning Her Hair (1873).
Tagore and Havell, who founded the Bengal School of Painting, were the pioneers
in encouraging Indian themes and urged the artists to take inspiration from the
traditions of Ajanta and Rajasthan in modem painting. They served to infuse
confidence in younger artistes who wanted to experiment with new modes of
expression. Abanindranath Tagore's Arabian Nights series (1930) is among
his renowned works. Other renowned painters like Nandlal Bose, Devi Prasad Roy,
Sarada Charan Ukil, Asit Kumar Haldar also belonged to this school.
another renowned Indian painter, modelled his work on the folk art of Bengal.
adopted the angular forms and harsh lines of the village patuas and used
the village dyes in his paintings. Amrita Shergil is another famed name in
contemporary modern Indian painting. Inspired by Mughal miniatures and Ajanta
murals, she produced several great works like Brahmacharis, Child Wife
and Preparing the Bride. Rabindranath Tagore started painting in 1930 at
the age of 67 and produced some great paintings, which are very individualistic
and modem in style. He held the first exhibition of his paintings in Galerie
Pigalle in Paris in 1930.
saw the setting up of a new school of art in Bombay called the Progressive
Artists' Group. The prominent artists of this group are Francis Newton Souza the
founder, Maqbool Fida Husain, S.H.Raza, H.A.Gade, S.K.Bakre and others. This
group organised its first painting exhibition in 1948. Painting took a
new form in this period - bold and furious at one end, soft and magical at the
other. By 1960, professional art galleries were opened in Delhi and Mumbai, and
in the next two decades several abstract painters like V.S. Gaitonde, Balraj
Khanna and J.Swaminathan emerged on the scene. Biren De, G.R.Santosh and others
tried to present the Tantra Art on canvas in oils and acrylics. Gulam
Muhammed Sheikh, Bhupen Khakkar, K.K.Hebber, S.H.Raza (Surya), Akbar
Padamsee (Woman), Tyeb Mehta (Figure with Bird), Krishna Khanna (St
Francis and the Wolf), Laxman Shrestha (Painting in Red), Navjote (Hope),
Jeram Patel (Organic Black), Jyoti Swaroop, Ram Kumar, Jehangir Sabavala,
Rameshwar Broota, Manjit Bawa and Sundaram are some other prominent names of
India's contemporary art scene. The South India saw the proliferation of good
painters like K.C.S.Pannikker, K.Madhava Menon, P.L.Narasimhamurty, Mokkapti
Krishnamurti, A.Ramachandran, G.Subramanyan and Ganesh Pyne. Among the
contemporary modem Indian women painters, mention may be made of Anjolie Ela
Menon, Arpana Caur, B.Prabha, Kamala Das, Lalitha Lajmi, Meera Devidayal, Rekha
Rodwittiya and Rekha Krishnan.
Most contemporary Indian paintings contain
imagery that is literal and colour that is highly charged, creating a
kaleidoscope of humanity and the human condition in modem India. The Indian
paintings have now acquired a stature of their own. They use materials and
techniques from all over the world but express Indian realities and Indian
experiences. The respect for tradition and the ability to transcend it at the
same time is clearly evident in the Indian art of today.
This is the essence of what has been described as the eclecticism of the
Indian contemporary expression.