Revelation & Reverences

New Delhi, Dec 4 (IANSlife) To commemorate its 20th anniversary, Bengaluru’s Gallery G is all set to showcase ‘Revelation & Reverences: Glimpses of Indian Art 1850 — 1950’. This three-month-long exhibition which opens to the public on December 9, 2022, will have on display a collection of rare oil paintings, watercolours, chromolithographs, litho stones, terracotta dolls and other rare artefacts. The exhibition charts the evolution of India’s art history from the mid-19th century to Independent India and will remain on display till February 28, 2023.

Works from artists like Raja Ravi Varma and his contemporaries work from early and Dutch Bengal artists, chromolithographs by M.V. Dhurandhar, watercolours by J.B. Dikshit and C. Kondiah Raju, works by G.V. Venkatesh Rao, K. Kesavayya and others will be on display at this iconic exhibition.

While the history of Indian art stretches back to the ancient era, the first shift towards progression in India’s visual history was witnessed during the latter half of the 19th century with the introduction of Company Style paintings. This was a time when under British rule, India was witnessing a cultural hegemony of western artistic expression.

During this time the Indian princely states, wealthy patrons and native painters under their patronage came under the influence of the Western style of painting. Gradually when Indian social reformists, industrialists and royal families travelled overseas, a world of technology, industry and Western art and culture opened up new vistas for them. They started to acquaint the Indian masses with the knowledge and expertise of the British. Local artists and artisans equipped themselves for this transformation and some of them opted for the Western style, medium and technique to become successful. This was the period when oil paints as a medium started coming more and more into the mainstream.

Beginning with traditional Kalighat paintings, Early Bengal Paintings and chromolithographs from the Calcutta Art Studio, the exhibition journey to Maharashtra where the works of important artists from the region are displayed. Similar subjects are explored by artists from different regions resulting in a unique representation of costume, jewellery and expression based on geographical boundaries, cultural milieu and social practices.

The art journey continues to the southern parts of the country with a focus on Travancore, where Western Academic style art by Raja Ravi Varma, Sekhara Warrier and Cheduvaranga Naidoo gained popularity. Traditional arts from Thanjavur met the modern mechanics of printing presses and the coloured boxes of Sivakasi through the hands of artists like C.G. Ramanujam and C. Kondiah Raju. Closer to home G.V Venkatesh Rao popularised the gods with his lithographs of Rama and Krishna, while Mysore court painter K. Kesavayya immortalised people through his portraits.

Imagery moved on and faces that were once traditional adopted decisive European features. Images of Indian gods were being touched up and printed in England, Germany and Italy. Krishna danced with Gopis amid Italian castles and Dattatreya donned a muscled physique and had Border Collies (an English breed of dog) alongside him in the imagery.

The realism that began in the West and was introduced to India by Westerners had been mastered by Indian artists.

This electrifying and invigorating journey of the evolution of Indian art, from cave paintings done in natural colours to the world of oil paintings, portraits, prints, posters and calendars is all charted in this expansive and well-documented exhibition titled ‘Revelation & Reverences’. Most of the works on display in this show belong to the collection of Sandeep and Gitanjali Maini Foundation, while some works are on loan from important private collectors and collections from across India.

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