Friday, August 31, 2012

Three hundred years of landscape art in India

Delhi Art Gallery is hosting a comprehensive overview of landscape art in India, entitled ‘Indian Landscapes: The Changing Horizon’, which documented the evolving form of this genre in Indian art over three centuries – from the late eighteenth century to the recent past, representing artists from all major centers of art production in India. Here are some of the highlights of the grand showcase and its background:

  • Landscape art arrived in India through many traveling European artists who brought the aesthetic of painting mountains, rivers and trees against the sky and a distant horizon – nature as a subject in itself – to Indian art, where it had traditionally only formed a backdrop in narrative-driven, figural paintings.
  • The genre remained popular throughout the nineteenth century with a great demand for landscapes of India both in Europe and among the newly anglicized elite in India. Its popularity began to wane with the advent of modernism and a growing emphasis on the human figure, but several Indian artists, a significant name among them Gopal Ghose, continued to practice the form, now absorbing a wide range of new artistic trends and influences.
  • The exhibition brings together the work of the earliest European artist-travelers to India, such as Thomas Daniell, William Hodges, Edward Cheney and Robert Grindlay, academic realist oil landscapes by acknowledged masters of the form, J. P. Gangooly and Ravi Varma.
  • There is a strong representation of academic Indian art school-trained artists as well from the 1920s-60s who specialised in landscapes – such as S. L. Haldankar, M. K. Parandekar, L. N. Taskar, D. C. Joglekar and S. G. Thakur Singh – and Bengal School’s Far East-inspired innovations seen in the works of Abanindranath Tagore, Nandalal Bose, Prosanto Roy, Benode Behari Mukherjee and Indra Dugar.
  • Master printmaker Haren Das, known for his serene, bucolic landscapes of rural Bengal, finds special and substantial representation. Post-independent Indian art and modernism was represented by the abiding landscapist Gopal Ghose, experiments in abstraction by F. N. Souza, K. S. Kulkarni, S. H. Raza, S. K. Bakre, Ganesh Haloi, Akbar Padamsee, Ram Kumar.
  • There is also a rare find – two landscapes by M. F. Husain, an artist not known to have painted landscapes. Other modernist Indian masters too find representation, many with their early works, artists such as Bikash Bhattacharjee and Sunil Das, early modernist landscapes and fantasyscapes of Avinash Chandra, those by Chittaprosad, Rabin Mondal and P. T. Reddy, and Himalayanscapes by Devyani and Kanwal Krishna, and the masterful Bireswar Sen.

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