“Love of beauty is taste. The creation of beauty is Art”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
It is tough to choose the best among a plethora of Great Indian Artists. Even, starting to write the line “5 Indian Artists…” makes me cringe. Why? Because India has witnessed many illustrious and famous artists throughout its history who are known globally for their masterpieces, artists that have taken the world by storm with their magnificent works of art. To narrow a list down to even 5 Great Indian Artists is a herculean task, let alone 50.
I believe that each artist is unique and has their own complex combinations of styles and influences. Nevertheless, I wanted to look back at the artists of the past and the artwork that inspired future generations of creative thinkers. Here, then, is my pick of 5 art-greats, in no particular order.
P.S. (This list is particular to me and my ideas about art, not a universal standard.)
Maqbool Fida Hussain (also known as the “Picasso of India”) is one of the most celebrated Indian artists. He has contributed much to the Indian art scene. India motifs and depictions of India’s urban and rural life were part of his paintings. Some of his paintings on India post-partition gave a sense of novelty to that era. His topics generally included Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the British Raj, etc.
I love how he portrays one instance or feeling through his paintings, but does it in a simplistic and understandable way.
Here are the three of the most acclaimed works by this world-renowned artist. Love, or love?
“The Puppet Dancers!”
This painting portrays a woman, a horse, a dancer and a warrior. It is called “The Puppet Dancers” and shows his love for toys. This painting is heavily influenced from a time before his paintings were famous, a time when he worked in a furniture company where he designed toys. This painting was displayed in the Sotheby’s auction and fetched a handsome 1.5 crore rupees.
“Battle of Ganga and Jamuna”
One of his most prolific paintings, “Battle of Ganga and Jamuna” portrays the conflict that exists between right and wrong, shown by the contrast between light and dark colors. It is based on Hindu Mythology. In 2008, this painting appeared at Christie’s auction and was sold for over 9 crore rupees.
M.F. Husain greatly enjoyed depicting horses in different forms, telling us about the lively and free spirit of this creature. In his painting called “Horses” , he has depicted three horses enjoying their lives running around in the fields. In 2008, this painting was placed on auction at Christie’s and has fetched over a crore! Nothing compared to 9 crores, eh?
2. Syed Haider Raza (1922 – 2016)
Syed Haider Raza is one of the most influential artists of the 90’s. Raza’s paintings resonate the passionate hot colours of India with all their symbolic, emotive value. Coupled with geometric abstractions, his paintings were simple yet striking. Collectors and galleries value his work highly even today.
In my opinion, his work with the “Bindu” makes him authentically Indian. His work also had a beautiful blend of trippy colours, making his work relatable to foreigners as well.
Some of his prized works include “Carcassonne”, “Italian Village” and “Saurashtra”! Scroll to see them.
This work of art is called “Carcassonne” and it depicts houses and churches of rural France. This is one of his first paintings when he shifted from India to France. Stylized houses, towers, and spires are meticulously assembled in this painting. Although inspired by the French countryside, these new landscapes were devoid of human presence and did not indicate any particular time or place.
This masterpiece called “Italian Village” represents the Italian landscape painted during his visit to the country in the 1950’s. In this painting, he experiments with the concepts of construction and orchestration clearly visible in his depiction of the houses and churches as block-like elements. Reminds me of an old church from the medieval times. What do you think?
This next beauty is abstract art called “Saurashtra” that combines geometry and bright rich command of the colour palette, and represents the combined experience of his life’s work and experience. It is named after a region of the Gujarat state. This piece of art sold at nearly 2.1 million pounds at the art auction by Christie’s London, setting a world record for Indian modern art. There is something mesmerizing about this piece, the way these colors blend into each other with ease. Will look great in your living room. Well, only if you had that kinda moolah. 😛
3. Francis Newton Souza (1924 – 2002)
Francis Newton Souza is well known for his thought provoking and powerful style of painting. His paintings expressed defiance and impatience that exists within the mellow humdrum of everyday life. A common theme in his works was the human figure, commonly shown doing sexual acts or performing religious rituals.
In my opinion, his works are quite direct and thought provoking. Through his paintings, he shows how thin is the line between what we think is real and what is truly real. Interested? Keep scrolling.
“Man and Woman Laughing”
This work of art depicts a man and woman, possibly going out together for a walk and are smiling. It’s called “Man and Woman Laughing” and is a sequel to a painting called “Man and Woman Grinding their Teeth”.Recently, this painting sold for a whopping 16.84 crore at a Saffronart auction in Delhi, setting a new record for the artist. What am I doing with my life?
“Crucifixion” depicts the tortured figure Jesus Christ along with other black figures besides him who, according to the artist, are St. John and his disciple. Souza looks at divine power of god as not one of love and kindness,but one of anger, vengeance and suffering. This painting with its grotesquely drawn figures tries to portray exactly that.
This final painting is called “Birth” and it ranks as one of his best works. It depicts a pregnant woman, a priest and a window with landscape. The woman in the painting is said to be his partner Lisolette who bore three children for him. It is obvious through this painting and others alike that he had a penchant for female nudes to a point of obsession.
4. Amrita Sher-Gil (1913 – 1941)
Amrita Sher-Gil was one of the most promising and charismatic Indian artists of the pre-colonial era. She would blend western and Indian style of painting to depict her love for her country and the life of the Indian people, particularly the poor and needy. Today, she is considered as one of the most important painters of the 20th Century.
Her unique style blends unique European art styles to show the simple lives of fellow Indians living within her locality. True beauty in simplicity! Interested? Read below.
“Group of Three Girls”
The painting depicts the modesty and shyness of Indian women in beautiful traditional Indian clothing. Its called “Group of Three Girls” and it’s a portrait of three sisters, who were daughters of the landowner-politician named Umrao Singh Sher-Gil Majithia. This painting not only won the gold medal in the Bombay Art Society in 1937, but it also helped launch Amrita’s career in art.
Considered by many scholars as her greatest work, “Brahmacharis” is a portrait of young brahmin boys set against a maroon background. The portrait depicts young brahmin boys barechested, wearing white dhotis, huddling around each other, sitting cross-legged to chat. This painting reflects the empathy she feels for her fellow Indians. It’s said that it is her experience of the Ajanta murals that inspired her to make this painting. Your take?
The last painting is called “Two Elephants” and it depicts two of these beautiful creatures set against a crimson red background. It tells the story of two elephants of the burning lands who feel their steps faltering and eyesight blurring due to old age. So they travel to the Elephant Graveyard where they die gracefully. Personally, I am in love with the crimsons that stand out at the centre of the elephant’s trunk. What do you think?
5. Tyeb Mehta (1925 – 2009)
Tyeb Mehta is a globally-recognized artist who played a key role in making Indian art popular. He was a voice to the new modern language of Indian art. He adopted a more minimalistic style of painting that uses brushstrokes to speak to the viewer. From painting images of rickshaw-wallahs and the trussed bull, his influences were diverse.
He loves to show the evils of the modern society and puts emphasis on suffering, anguish, and dilemma of the common man in canvas.
Here’s your dose of art for the week. I promise these are the last few.
This painting called “Mahishasura” tells the tale of a legend whereby the Brahmin Demon-King Rambha produces an invincible son through his union with a she-buffalo. The inspiration to make this painting came to him on his visit to Shantiniketan where he heard of the legend of Mahishasura. This was the first painting to cross the million dollar mark at Christie’s, selling for almost 1.58 million dollars.
“Figure on Rickshaw”
This untitled work by Tyeb Mehta (known as “Figure on Rickshaw”) shows a person relaxing on a hand-pulled rickshaw. It is a reference to his time in Calcutta, where hand-pulled rickshaws still operate even today. However,the painting is not as a representation of travel or liberation, but as a symbol of struggle and subjugation for its captive puller. This painting sold for a whopping 3.24 million dollars at Christie’s in London.
This last piece by him is untitled (known as Kali) depicts a hindu goddess Kali, associated with death and destruction set in olive green and dark brown background. This unsettling, yet beautiful painting sold for the record price of Rs 5.72 crore at Saffronart’s auction. Breath = Taken.
I promise this is the end of it. But wait, I had to share one more. This one’s titled “Artistic Potato” and is the celebrated work of an unknown artist. 😛
“Sorry for the long post.”