28 May 2016

"Practitioners of the figure" in India

"All the great Indian practitioners of the figure - Tagore, Amrita Sher-gil, FN Souza, Jamini Roy, Paritosh Sen, KG Subramanyan - rejected what the prodigiously gift, short-lived, sharp-tongues Hungarian-Indian Sher-gil called "academic naturalism", which she characterised as a style that believes "the sole function of painting and sculpture is to reproduce a given object faithfully, that is, with as h cretinous minuteness and servilitiy as is humanly possible".

So said Amit Chaudhuri, reviewing Bhupen Khakhar's upcoming exhibition at Tate Modern (1 June to 6 November). Who are these practitioners of the figure, "both shaped by and severing ties with the European Renaissance"?

A quick search reveals two "Tagore"s who were visual artists - Abanindranath Tagore (1871-1951) was influential in the development of modern  Indian painting, and it was surely this Tagore that the author was referring to. The better-known Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) "reshaped Bengali literature and music, as well as Indian art with Contextual Modernism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries" but didn't take up painting until he was in his 60s and was more abstract than figurative.
Three ink drawings by Rabindranath Tagore, exhibited at the V&A in 2011 (via)
Abanindranath Tagore was the first Indian artist to gain international recognition, says this site; "Tagore sought to modernize Moghul and Rajput styles in order to counter the influence of Western models of art, as taught in Art Schools under the British Raj and developed the Indian style of painting, later known as Bengal school of art. Such was the success of Tagore's work that it was eventually accepted and promoted as a national Indian style within British art institutions under the epithet of Indian Society of Oriental Art."

Of the "25 famous paintings" by him (here), this is Jamuna -
and this is "The Passing of Shah Jahan" (1901) -

Next on the list is the "sharp-tongued" Amrita Sher-gil (1913-1941) - sometimes known as India's Frida Kahlo.
Amrita Sher-Gil - two self-portraits from the early 1930s (via)
"South Indian villagers going to market" (via)

The style of FN Souza (1924-2002) "exhibited both low-life and high energy" says Wikipedia.
FN Souza, Abstract head, 1957
Souza's Crucifixion is in the Tate's collection 

Jamini Roy (1887-1972) was one of the most famous pupils of Abanindranath Tagore and drew inspiration from folk and tribal art forms. His 17-panel Ramayana (1940-44) is regarded as his major work.
Three Women is from the 1940s (via)
Jatayu, Sita and Ravana is from the same era (via)

Paritosh Sen (1918-2008) was a founder member of the Calcutta Group, established in 1942. He travelled widely around the world and his style of painting underwent many changes.
Paritosh Sen, Music Lovers (via)
Untitled (via)

KG Subramanyan (b.1924) is another pioneer of Indian art ... painter,sculptor, printmaker, muralist.
KG Subramanyan, Odd Encounters, 1996 (via)
Untitled (via)

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