The Life and Times of Great Indian Art Connoisseurs

The history of Indian paintings can be traced back to as early as the 2nd century BCE and over the years it has grown into a wide spectrum of styles and forms. Over the years, Indian modern art and Indian classical art has been globally accepted and made famous because of their immaculate talent and skill. A lot of the Indian paintings are rooted in customs, religion, culture, and mythology, and today, we will enlighten you about the greatest Indian art connoisseurs that this country has seen.

Globally, we all know about the works of Vincent van Gogh and Picasso but within India, some great names worked hard towards enhancing the early modern Indian painting and the post-modern period of painting. These Indian art masters expanded the Indian art scene while keeping in mind their Indian roots and went onto becoming iconic names in the world of art.

  • M. F. Husain

  • The ‘Picasso of India’, a man whose talent was loved and hated by many, and the ‘Godfather of Contemporary Indian Art’, the legendary Maqbool Fida Husain, is the best Indian art expert this country had. Born in Pandharpur, Maharashtra in 1915, M.F. Husain was a self-taught artist who picked up the brush from a young age and went onto becoming an internationally acclaimed artist. He was one of the founding members of the Progressive Artists’ Group and created paintings that portrayed an array of emotions.

    Husain never backed out of experimenting with his work and that is exactly what landed him the Padma Bhushan (1973) and Padma Vibhushan (1991). His work had elements of Cubism and hence, a lot of his paintings were compared to Pablo Picasso’s. One of the most experienced Indian art connoisseurs, he was highly criticized for portraying Hindu religious figures in nude portraits which made him choose the path of a self-imposed exile until his death in  2011.

  • S. H. Raza

  • Another founding member of the Progressive Artist’s Group, S.H. Raza is known as one of the specialist art connoisseurs who was a leading face in laying the foundation of Indian modern art. He was born in Kakkaiya, Madhya Pradesh in 1922. As an Indian art expert, Raza experimented with his work which was visibly associated and influenced by his surroundings. Ranging from his childhood to his move from India to France, a lot of his work depicted landscape scenery which was vivid and abstract in nature.

    Raza felt his work had certain limitations and while looking for inspiration, stumbled upon the Hindu culture of a ‘Bindu. He felt the Bindu was the center of all energy and creation; with this discovery, his work shifted from landscapes to an abstract geometric theme which was reflected in his later works. 

  • Raja Ravi Verma

  • Talking about Indian art experts would be incomplete without mentioning one of the first and most legendary painters that India saw. Raja Ravi Varma is considered as one of the foremost Indian painters whose work had European influences and went onto make the most memorable and eye-capturing paintings. Born in the princely state of Travancore in 1848, Raja Ravi Varma was famously known for portraying figures from Hindu mythology like Mahabharata and Ramayana along with Hindu deities.

    Varma is known as one of the great Indian art connoisseurs for his interaction with the audience as well, as he produced cheap lithographs of his paintings for the public to procure. In the 21st century, a lot of his work has been adapted as digital works and is used on different platforms; some of his famous paintings are ‘Damayanti Talking to a Swan’, ‘Shakuntala’, ‘Arjuna and Subhadra’, amongst many others.

  • Tyeb Mehta

  • This Indian art expert started his journey as a film editor but soon found his calling in the world of painting.  Tyeb Mehta was one of the members of the Progressive Artists’ Group and embraced modern Indian art while leaving behind the Bengal School of Art. Tyeb was born on 26 July 1925 in Kapadvanj, Gujarat; one of the partition incidents, where he witnessed a man being stoned to death, left a lasting impact on his work.

    His paintings depicted Hindu Gods and Goddesses and other mythological figures from Hindu mythology. One of his most noted paintings, ‘Mahisasura’, exactly depicts how his work was - modern and expressive. It was also one of the most expensive paintings to be sold, exactly why Tyeb Mehta is considered as one of the great specialist art connoisseurs.

  • Amrita Sher-Gil

  • India’s Frida Kahlo and the only Asian woman artist to have won a gold medal at the Associate of the Grand Salon in Paris - the charming Amrita Sher-Gil was one of the few women Indian art connoisseurs that India saw. Born into a Punjabi Jat Sikh aristocratic family, Amrita began painting at the age of five and started her formal training at the age of 8. In a short period of time, she went onto produce thought-provoking work, which mostly depicted women in their daily lives.

    The European influence on her works was reflected through her oil painting techniques; one of her most famous and finest works remains to be the ‘Young Girls’. Amrita’s work often concentrated on nude studies, portraits of women, and even self-portraits. This talented Indian art expert mysteriously passed away at the young age of 28 leaving behind her legacy which is now mostly situated in the National Gallery of Art. Some of her famous works are ‘Sleep’, ‘Group of Three Girls’, ‘Hungarian Gypsy Girl’ and ‘Bride’s Toilet’. 

  • Francis Newton Souza

  • The Indian art scene has seen several artists whose imagination is unrestrained and sometimes, beyond our concrete understanding of art. And several times, just like the legendary M.F. Husain, we tend to reject their work. One of the Indian art masters who met with the same destiny was Francis Newton Souza; Souza was born into a Goan Catholic family, who sternly followed the Catholic ways. F.N. Souza was also one of the founding members of the Progressive Artists’ Group in Bombay and fairly enough, his work can be considered modern and challenging to be able to present it on the international platform.

    His work focussed on the understanding of sensuality, eroticism, and the human body; often drawn in a way that was similar to the style of Pablo Picasso and M.F.Husain. Souza’s paintings took time to gain recognition and it was only in his later years that his work was appreciated and understood by the larger audience. His paintings which often portrayed women in sensual themes were so offensive that his own family rejected him. One of the greatest works of this Indian art expert is the ‘Birth’. 

    The journey of modern Indian art has seen great Indian art connoisseurs; artists who were loved, hated and eventually celebrated by their own country. While we continue to celebrate these iconic artists, they also remain the beacon of hope for a new generation of artists who will further undertake the same journey with a foundation that was laid for them years ago by these fabled art connoisseurs.
    May 25, 2021 — Team Bimba