Great Artists and their Masterpieces: Part 1 – India
Posted on: July 14, 2021.

Vivid imagination. Visual cues. Imitations. Shapes, forms, features. Sketches, shades, hues, gradients, patterns, textures. Canvas, dyes, watercolors, oil pastels. Artistic mystery and intrigue. An astral experience…

The elements of painted art and their origins can, as such, be described. A taste for art is a rare quality, in both original creation and critical admiration. A painting is shared space between the artist and the admirer.

“Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder”, it is said. An artist’s representation in a painting can be interpreted in distinct ways by numerous admirers and art critics. Nevertheless, viewing a painting is delightful to many.

What a thousand words cannot convey, a painting does, it is said. It is the language of colors that combine in the conception and perception of a painting—yet one doesn’t have to understand a painting to admire it.

Furthermore, this article endeavors to present the most acclaimed works of great Indian artists—

RAJA RAVI VERMA

  • Born in 1848, of a royal lineage, at Kilimanoor Palace in the princely state of Travancore in British India
  • Paintings embellished Hindu mythological subjects and themes in the historicist European realism painting style
  • Used the artistic technique of “Chiaroscuro” with strong contrasts between light and dark areas
  • Acclaimed works: Shakuntala, Damayanti, There Comes Papa, Yashoda Krishna
  • Agreeably, the most influential, controversial, and criticized painter in the history of Indian art

ABANINDRANATH TAGORE

  • Born in 1871 in Calcutta
  • Nephew of Rabindranath Tagore and younger brother of Gaganendranath Tagore
  • First major exponent of Swadeshi values in Indian art
  • Countered the influence of Western models of art by modernizing Mughal and Rajput styles using Japanese and Chinese techniques
  • Acclaimed works: Bharat Mata, The Passing of Shah Jahan, Asoka’s Queen
  • Bharat Mata depicts a saffron-clad woman holding a book, sheaves of paddy, a piece of white cloth and a garland in her four hands—immensely influential because of its emotional and historical value, particularly among Indian nationalists, especially in the wake of Lord Curzon’s plan to bifurcate Bengal
  • “Father of Modern Art in India”—founded Indian Society of Oriental Art and Bengal School of Art

S. L. HALDANKAR

  • Born Sawlaram Lakshman “S. L.” Haldankar in 1882 in Sawantwadi, Maharashtra
  • Widely acclaimed as “India’s finest painter”, and as “one of the three finest watercolorists in the world”
  • Acclaimed series: “Glow of Hope” series—characterized by a woman’s face lit by the beautiful glow from a central source, mostly a lamp, that throws dramatic shadows in the background
  • Most acclaimed work: Lady with the Lamp—incorrectly attributed to contemporary Indian painter Raja Ravi Verma
  • The “Lady” in Lady with the Lamp is Haldankar’s third daughter Gita, when she was 12 years old—a young, demure girl who stood still for three hours with a lamp in her hand, on Diwali day, at the request of her “Bhau”. The light reflecting from her fingers gave the painting an ethereal depiction, aesthetically accentuated by sensitivity, simplicity, and the use of soft and subtle colors.
  • Lilavati, his second daughter, posed for the painting Divine Flame.

AMRITA SHER-GILL

  • Born in 1913 in Hungary
  • Knowledgeable in the genres of modernism and impressionism
  • The western and Indian art styles were bridged by her paintings
  • Incorporation of Indian tradition elements in Western techniques
  • Her early works were inspired by her personal life
  • The marginal sections of India were represented in the painter’s art
  • One of few Asian painters to receive critical acclaim and awards in Europe
  • Acclaimed works : Siesta, Village Scene, In the Ladies Enclosure

M. F. HUSSAIN

  • Born Maqbool Fida “M. F.” Hussain in 1915 in Pandharpur, Maharashtra
  • Began his career by painting posters for movies and advertisements.
  • ‘Drew’ the attention of Indian youth toward art by founding the Bombay Progressive Artists Group
  • Adopted a modified “Cubist/Cubism” style for executing bold, vibrantly-colored narrative paintings
  • Enjoyed depicting the lively and free spirit of horses in many of his works.
  • Commissioned by Qatar’s First Lady for making two paintings
  • Highest-earning Indian painter of all time, with some of his paintings sold for millions of dollars
  • Received the Padma Bhushan, Padma Vibhushan and Padma Shri—popularly known as ‘Picasso of India’
  • Acclaimed works: Horses, Mother India, Lady with Veena, Woman in Red, Black Hill

TYEB MEHTA

  • Born in 1925 in a small town in Gujarat, and later moved to Bombay
  • Joined the Bombay Progressive Artists Group founded by M. F. Hussain
  • Paintings a reflection of political and social happenings
  • Contemporary admirers were interested by his fondness for modernism and minimalism
  • India’s finest contemporary artist
  • Received numerous awards such as Padma Bhushan and Rockefeller 3rd Fund
  • Invented a personal painting style called ‘Diagonal Series’
  • Understanding of art deepened after exposure to the art atmosphere of London and New York
  • Acclaimed works: Celebration, Kali, Mahishasura, Shanthi Niketan Triptych series
  • Celebration established him as a legend and sold for 15 million rupees—one of the highest ever prices paid for a painting in Asia at that time

S ELAYARAJA

  • Born in 1979 in a small village near Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu
  • Depiction of the everyday rural life of Dravidian women, was the central theme in all his paintings.
  • Had a much-acclaimed, inimitable style, renowned for being ‘hyper-realistic’, almost often mistaken at first look to be photographs
  • Painstakingly breathes life into every detail of a painting—the folds of the dress, the shining gold-threaded patterns and borders of the skirt, the pretty parrots perched on the windowsill, the brown, wooden window frame, the cemented floor—where color tone, light, and shade, create a work of art that is bathed in an almost angelic golden glow making it incredibly beautiful.
  • Acclaimed series: ‘Dravidian Women’portraying the look of innocence as they are involved in the daily activities of rural life—showcases the artist’s deep bond with his cultural background
  • “Death is inevitable. Only artists elude it. The artworks we leave behind ensure that we live beyond our stay in the world”, were the parting words of S Elayaraja in the last interview before his recent death


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