Local village scroll painters were called patuas. The potters were called kumors in eastern India and kumhars in north India. Many of them from the surrounding villages moved to Calcutta in the early nineteenth century and settled near the Kalighat temple. This was the time when the city was developing as a commercial and administrative centre. The village artists migrated to the city in the hope of new patrons and new buyers of their art.
The village patuas and kumors used to paint from mythological themes and made images of gods and goddesses. The traditional paintings looked flat; like the traditional paintings from other parts of India. During the nineteenth century, the Kalighat painters began to use shading to give more depth to their painting. But the main characteristic of these paintings was the use of bold lines which were kept to the minimum. Colours were also kept to a minimum to stick to the non-realistic style.
After the 1840s, the Kalighat artists also began to depict contemporary themes from the society. They also began to mock at the attitude of educated Indians towards blind aping of the western culture.
Many of these Kalighat pictures were printed in large numbers and sold in the market. Initially, block printing was used for making reprints. By the late nineteenth century, mechanical printers came into use. This helped in bringing down the price of prints. Thus, printed images became affordable to the masses.
Even some middle-class Indian artists set up printing presses. They had been trained in British art schools. They were trained in new methods of life study, oil painting and print making. Calcutta Art Studio was one of the most successful of such presses. These presses printed lifelike images of eminent Bengali personalities. They also produced mythological pictures. These mythological pictures were made in the backdrop of picturesque landscape. Many of the calendars (with pictures of Hindu deities) which can be seen even today have originated during this period.
Raja Ravi Verma: Ravi Varma came from the family of the Maharajas of Travancore. He had learnt the Western art of oil painting and realistic life study. He painted themes from Indian mythology. He made many paintings; depicting scenes from Mahabharata and Ramayana. From the 1880s, his mythological paintings became a rage among Indian princes and art collectors.
Ravi Varma also set up a picture production team and printing press in Bombay. Colour prints of his religious paintings were mass produced in this press. Such prints could be bought by even the poor people.
Abanindranath Tagore (1871-1951): A new group of national artists gathered around him. They criticized the art of Ravi Varma as imitative and westernized. They tried to draw inspiration from traditional Indian styles. They turned to miniature paintings of the medieval period and murals of ancient period to take inspiration. They were also influenced by Japanese style because some Japanese artists had visited India at that time in order to develop an Asian art movement.
In Abanindranath school of painting, we can see the influence of Rajput miniatures, Ajanta cave paintings and Japanese paintings.
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