Gods, Goddesses and Mythologies: Popular Oleographs and Chromolithographs from the Late 19th and Early 20th century India.
As many as ninety oleographs and chromolithographs by Raja Ravi Varma, M. V. Dhurandhar, Bamapada Banerjee and many lesser-known popular artists of the so-called “Calendar Prints” are on display at the Kalakriti Art Gallery from 17th May to 12th June 2019.
The coloured lithographs, largely devoted to the mythological subject matters, began to flourish in the 1870s in the wake of nationalism and academic art education in India. The Chitrashala Press, Poona– a number of rare early chromolithographs of the Press are exhibited in the exhibition – was one of the earliest and most famous commercial Art Studios widely known for their historical portraits, iconic and mythological prints.
Raja Ravi Varma, who not only popularized but also ennobled the aesthetic status of the mass-produced picture prints, established his own Ravi Varma Fine Arts Lithographic Press in 1894. He was perfectly aware that his large oil paintings could only be commissioned by the royalty and other wealthy people and displayed in their mansions, which were beyond the reach of the common viewers. To make his paintings accessible to the common people, he decided to disperse his famous mythological paintings through oleographs and chromolithographs, which, in turn, earned him incomparable popularity and fame as the first national artist in India.
The success of Ravi Varma encouraged many talented artists of his later generation to publish coloured lithographs of their paintings. The Exhibition includes the famous oleographs of M.V. Dhurandhar, Bamapada Banerjee, R.G. Chonker, Vasudeo H. Pandya, C. G. Ramanujam, Hiralal of Nathdwara, P. Mukundan Tampi and a few others from this group. In the early decades of the 20th century, a large and widespread market for prints emerged in India and the artists, lithographic presses, entrepreneurs, and sale agents became closely interconnected to each other as never before. The exhibition allows us to take a glimpse into this rich, complex and variegated world of the popular prints.
One of the main attractions of the exhibition is the large format embellished lithographic prints. There was a tradition of the woman from the wealthy families spending their leisure time embellishing the lithographic prints of gods and goddesses with embroidery and zardozi. Beautifully decorated, these embellished prints still enchant our eyes, adding a new dimension to the history of the use of popular print in India.