Culture Quick takes: Enter the World of Art Appreciation
The importance of art appreciation
Indian art and crafts have a very long, rich and fascinating history. The earliest pre-historic paintings were created on rocks and these rock engravings were called petroglyphs. The oldest Indian paintings in the form of rock art, such as the Bhimbetka cave paintings in Madhya Pradesh are more than 10,000 years old. These paintings generally depict animals like bear, bison and tiger. Even in the earliest civilizations like Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro, we find numerous examples of exquisite carvings and sculptures that express human creativity and imagination. Since antiquity, Indian artists displayed exceptional mastery over concepts of beauty, symmetry, colour, strength of line and form. As people in the country worshipped many different Gods and Goddesses, and ancient epics, artists utilized their talents to give deities and stories beautiful forms, making them eternal.
As life is complex and dynamic, artists used their skills to express emotions as a civilization through their work. It helped channelise their focus and appreciate the world around them. The alluring dancing Shiva, serene Buddha, captivating Lord Krishna, menacing ten-headed monsters and delightful Apsaras are distinctive symbols of great Indian art. The polished sandstone lion edict of Sarnath, the rock-cut caves of Ajanta and Ellora, the Taj Mahal, the Chalukyan temple of Virupaksha, the Indo-Aryan temples at Bhuvaneshwar, and the Sun temple of Modhera are some of the ageless structures that present an endless variety of exquisite stone carvings. Spanning throughout the length and breadth of the country are memorials for the brave, carved cave temples dedicated to the gods, stunningly intricate designs, built artisans to commemorate kings, all of them telling us a little bit of history of who we are as a civilization.
Some of the famous centres of art in ancient India include Tanjore and Mysore Schools of Gesso Art, Kala Ranga Art, Maithili Paintings, Pahari Paintings, Ganjifa Art, Folk arts of India, Murals of Karnataka etc. Gandhara, Amravati, and Mathura Schools of Art allowed talented individuals to attain the highest standard of workmanship, skill and extraordinary imagination. Since then, many Indian artists and craftsmen have invested a significant amount of energy and vitality in creating the art treasure of India. Art in the country has taken different forms, paintings, sculptures, embroidery art, rangoli art and many more. Sadly, the arrival of East India Company drastically changed the conception of art in India. From being a lender of artisans and artists, India became a borrower.
However, India did continue to create some gems in the world of art. Let us look at some of the famous artists of the 18th, 19th and 20th century.
Famous artists of India
Jamini Roy (1887–1972)
Jamini Roy is among the most recognizable of Indian painters. He has contributed greatly to the world of art and is considered one of the most important artists of the 20th century. His artwork has been declared as national treasure of India, and his work has gained international acclaim since his death. His work exhibits a strong influence of Bengali tradition, even when he is portrayed European saints.
Vasudeo S Gaitonde (1924–2001)
Vasudeo is in the current day regarded as one of India’s most eminent modern abstract painters. In the recent years, his artwork has been breaking auction records and his artworks are currently valued as the most expensive in the Indian art market. Gaitonde’s canvas painted with mellow and subdued colour compositions reflect the meditative countenance and spiritual quality of his art.
M. F. Husain (1915–2011)
Maqbool Fida Husain is India’s most famous artist of modern times who has achieved international acclaim with his work. His style has always been executing bold, engaging coloured narrative paintings in a modified Cubist style. A multi-faceted and talented individual, M. F. Husain directed movies and served in the Indian Parliament.
Nandalal Bose (1883–1966)
The unique paintings of Nandalal Bose are considered among India’s best modern paintings by many. He is one of the pioneers of modern Indian art and a towering figure of Contextual Modernism. A student of Abanindranath Tagore, Bose was known for his “Indian style” of painting. His work includes paintings of scenes from Indian women, mythology, and village life.
S Elayaraja (1979–2021)
Elayraja is an international renowned painter known for his realistic paintings of south Indian women. At a very young age, Elayaraja taught himself how to paint. Through his work, he breathed life into the common crowd he painted in everyday moments. Innocent expression painted with delicate play of fine details captivated hearts and minds with its realism.
Appreciating the world captured beautifully through art
Art has always been dynamic at its very core, with new trends and styles emerging at every stage and defining movement of human civilization. One of the most beautiful aspects of art is the subjective experiences and the inspiration each individual draw from it. Art has the potential to awaken the stream of the subconscious and touch the soul of every person that comes across it. For many people, the concept of art is meant to express something deep within ourselves that we feel unable to convey. Through its visual medium, art manages to evoke feelings of joy, sadness, anger and pain. It is one of the main reasons why art appreciation is so important in bringing that one final element to complete the work, our interpretation.
Today, the word ‘Art’ includes a large variety of works, from sculptures, paintings, architecture to design, and even, digital art. Art appreciation involves a deeper look into the setting and historical implication, helping us learn more about the background of the piece, a study of its origins. India is truly a treasure house of art; in the modern age we have left a little off who we are as people in our past. Understanding and appreciating these artwork helps us discover a little more about ourselves and our connection to the people and events of the past.
This article first appeared at the Dalham blog.