A Brief History of Indian Art

We’ve put together a very, very concise guide on Modern and Contemporary Indian Art for our StoryLTD customers

If you’ve visited our sister site, StoryLTD by Saffronart, and spent hours (or minutes, for the impatient) sifting through our pages, this might come as some handy information for you. We’ve introduced succinct essays on most of our categories, going by genre and medium, to guide you on what each category has to offer. If you find yourself fancying some of the folk and tribal art paintings, or any of the landscapes for sale, browse through our collection and scroll to the bottom to learn more about them.

Here, we’ve summed up the Modern and Contemporary art movements, talking about the circumstances that shaped each generation’s approach to art.

An Overview of Modern Indian Art

We cover a broad spectrum of prints of Modern Indian paintings by Raja Ravi Varma, Sakti Burman, S. H. Raza, M. F. Husain, and other artists active in the early-to-mid 20th century.

During the early and mid 1900s, the dilemma for many artists centred around interrogating Western influences on artistic expression, establishing a distinct identity and idiom for Indian art, and engaging with the role and function of the artist in a country like India. The British encouraged a Western approach to art; a realistic, trompe l’oeil work was more valued than the practices previously favoured. As a knee-jerk reaction, different schools of thought, such as the Bengal School, cropped up to check colonialism and Western ideals.

Following India’s independence, artists addressed themes ranging from the everyday and trivial to the social and political, from the late forties through succeeding decades. Sculptors also experimented with different materials and techniques to lend a more personal and reflective quality to their work. By the 1970s, a number of social and political events unfolding across the country left an impression on artists. The role of the artist in a developing country and the need for social responsiveness were interrogated by these practitioners. This decade also saw many more women artists come forward on the artistic scene, the majority of them delineating a point of view that combined the feminist and the subjective.

Contemporary Paintings

Indian Contemporary art has come to include art made from the mid-80s onwards. Our section on StoryLTD features original paintings by contemporary artists for sale.

The modernism of the preceding decades set the tone of Indian artistic practice in the late eighties and nineties. The new generation had long moved on from the concerns that plagued artists in the earlier half of the century. During the 1990s, a pluralist and fragmentative mood dominated the creation of contemporary art. Artists had to respond to a plethora of stimuli, trying to address a new age of information, and the emergence and novel concerns of the ‘global Indian’. The Indian art market has ever since opened up abroad. Art galleries within the country have increased in number, and the Indian artist is now faced with the challenge of speaking to a more diffuse audience.

Today, the work of artists from the Indian diaspora, the blurring of design and art, and the videos, installations and digital spaces of an even younger generation of artists have all added new dimensions to Indian contemporary art, a vague and undefined concept ever-receptive to growth and change.

To buy Indian paintings and prints online, visit www.storyltd.com

The World through the eyes of Mario Miranda

Lani McGuinness on prints by one of India’s most beloved cartoonists 

Mario Miranda...by Mario Miranda www.storyltd.com

Mario Miranda…by Mario Miranda

If you frequent Cafe Mondegar in Colaba, with its enticing smells and animated crowds, you would perhaps agree that the cafe would not be complete without its iconic Mario Miranda cartoons sprawled across the walls. Widely recognised as one of India’s most popular and gifted cartoonists, Mario Miranda (1926 – 2011) infused a razor-sharp sense of humour in the humdrum. His work featured regularly in many noteworthy Indian newspapers, including the Times of India and the Economic Times.

StoryLTD is celebrating his life and work through four online collections, where a wide range of Mario Miranda prints and drawings are available to buy. Our Limited Edition Prints and Open Edition Prints span his travels across the United States, Europe, China and India, and also cover his interpretations of historical moments as they occurred. Works like “The Barber’s Shop” and “The Street Where I Live” wittily condense scenes that we see unfold around us, with a timely sense of humour. Not all are caricatures, however. Works such as “Colonial Portuguese Architecture” and “Street in Fontainhas” appear inspired by places where he might have been physically present.  Many of his ink and pen caricatures of office and day-today life, and politics, are compiled in our collection of Mario Miranda Originals. Some among you may recollect the Jazz Yatra festivals held between 1980 and 2003; Yatra…and all that Jazz… is a selection of pen, ink, and watercolour sketches that capture the moods of these festivals.

“The Street Where I Live” by Mario Miranda Digital print on paper

“The Street Where I Live”
Digital print on paper

“The Barber’s Shop” by Mario Miranda Digital print on paper

“The Barber’s Shop” 
Digital print on paper

“Street in Fontainhas” by Mario Miranda Digital print on paper

“Street in Fontainhas” 
Digital print on paper

“Colonial Portuguese Architecture” by Mario Miranda Digital print on paper

“Colonial Portuguese Architecture” 
Digital print on paper

Although he never received formal art training, Mario Miranda’s talent was recognised by his friends while he was studying architecture after receiving a B.A. in History. What started as a sideline to make extra money from his friends spiralled into a full-fledged career as a cartoonist. He first gained nationwide popularity through his work in The Illustrated Weekly of India. Through this and other Mumbai-based newspapers, his work grew in popularity. The five years that he lived in England allowed him to travel around Europe extensively, and his work was featured in magazines including Lilliput, Mad and Punch.

A 1980 pen and ink on paper by Mario Miranda From the collection “Mario Miranda, Originals”

A 1980 pen and ink on paper 
From the collection “Mario Miranda, Originals”

A 1970s pen and ink on paper by Mario Miranda From the collection “Mario Miranda, Originals”

A 1970s pen and ink on paper
From the collection “Mario Miranda, Originals”

\“Herbie Mann”, from the collection Yatra...And All That Jazz... Pen and ink on paper

“Herbie Mann”, from the collection Yatra…And All That Jazz… Pen and ink on paper

“Kenny Barron at the Piano”, from the collection Yatra...And All That Jazz... Watercolour, pen and ink on paper

“Kenny Barron at the Piano”, from the collection Yatra…And All That Jazz… Watercolour, pen and ink on paper

In 1974, at the invitation of the United States Information Service, Mario Miranda travelled to the United States to promote his work and meet other cartoonists, including Charles M. Shultz, the creator of the popular comic series “Peanuts”. Yet, despite all his travels, Mario Miranda retained a distinctly Indian flavour. Be it his caricatures or vignettes of the villages of his birthplace Goa and sub-Indian cultures, Miranda’s work reflects his experiences of modern India; frenetic lines and curvaceous women populate almost all his prints and paintings.

Mario Miranda has been recognised internationally with a number of solo exhibitions in many countries, including Japan, Germany, the USA, Spain and France.

Folk And Tribal Arts of India: Part 1

Elizabeth Prendiville of Saffronart introduces the indigenous art forms of Patachitra and Jogi Art alongside illustrated lots from Storyltd’s upcoming auction of tribal and folk art

Lot 5, Bengal Scroll https://www.storyltd.com/auction/item.aspx?eid=3741&lotno=5

Lot 5, Bengal Scroll

NEW YORK: On September 24th StoryLTD’s newest Absolute Auction of Folk and Tribal Art will go live with an eclectic collection of indigenous art works depicting a vast array of artistic traditions from different regions of India. These techniques represent longstanding regional narrative and customs with colourful hues, varying textures and elaborate compositions. Two techniques represented in this sale include the multi-dimensional storytelling tradition of Patachitra scroll paintings and the family rooted Jogi art.

Patachitra, originating in the Eastern Indian state of Odisha, is essentially an ornate cloth-based scroll painting. Although these colourful works have organic and humble roots they offer a wealth of narrative possibilities. “Patta” means “cloth” in Sanskrit while “chitra” means picture or painting. True to the name, layers of cotton cloth are adhered together with a natural glue product and formed into scrolls. Patachitras made of lighter paper materials are sometimes reinforced with saris to extend their life. It is essential that these scrolls remain intact as they are exhibited by traditional story tellers that travel distances and use these scrolls in their performances. The subject is often based on Ramayana or regional folklore and mythology. However, they also sometimes contain narratives from Muslim and Sufi traditions. Traditionally crafted by travelling bards, each scroll was accompanied by a song. Thus each Patachitra was experienced as a multidimensional piece, with a narrative conveyed in both visuals and music. The tradition of Patachitras continues and contemporary scrolls often convey current events or pivotal moments in recent history.

Lot 86, Jabbar Chitrakar and Unknown artist, Bengal Scroll https://www.storyltd.com/auction/item.aspx?eid=3741&lotno=86

Lot 86, Jabbar Chitrakar and Unknown artist, Bengal Scroll https://www.storyltd.com/auction/item.aspx?eid=3741&lotno=86

A fitting example of these Bengal scrolls can be seen in Lot 85 and 86 in the Absolute Auction of Folk and Tribal Art by Jabbar Chitrakar and Yamuna Chitrakar. These colourful works are made from natural pigments and shows two narratives simultaneously. The title Chitrakar, literally meaning painter, is taken on by the performers. Not formally trained in the art of painting, these chitrakars learn the traditional skills in a local setting, becoming travelling showmen who are adept in more ways in one, donning multiple roles- painters, singers, performers, storytellers.

Lot 82, Govind Jogi, Jogi Art https://www.storyltd.com/auction/item.aspx?eid=3741&lotno=82

Lot 82, Govind Jogi, Jogi Art https://www.storyltd.com/auction/item.aspx?eid=3741&lotno=82

Much like the scroll paintings of Bengal, Jogi Art has an interesting history. Ganesh Jogi, the namesake of this artistic form, performed as a musician in Rajasthan. Following the traditional professional associated with the Jogi caste, the family would wander the streets in the early hours of the morning, singing devotional songs and receiving grains, clothes and occasionally money from people. Due to changing times they had to move to the neighbouring state of Gujrat to seek a livelihood. A chance encounter with the eminent artist and anthropologist in the 1980s laid roots for the blossoming of this visual art form. Shah encouraged Ganesh and his wife Teju to draw from their hearts and imagination images that inhabit their world. Over time these illustrations became detailed and complex, a true visual delight. The current lots showcasing Jogi Art present the evolutionary and transformative potential of traditional artistic practices. They present varied themes that include village life, current events and contemporary discourses like environmentalism.

Lot 83, Teju Ben, Jogi Art https://www.storyltd.com/auction/item.aspx?eid=3741&lotno=83

Lot 83, Teju Ben, Jogi Art https://www.storyltd.com/auction/item.aspx?eid=3741&lotno=83

StoryLTD’s upcoming auction of folk and tribal art presents an opportunity to partake in India’s traditional visual practices, the range of artworks included in the sale are sure to peak one’s curiosity about the indigenous art genres existing in the different regions of the subcontinent.








Can Site-Specific Artists Really Claim Space? The Georges Rousse Apnalaya Benefit Collection

Elizabeth Prendiville of Saffronart discusses appropriation in the site-specific work of artist Georges Rousse.

“Mumbai 2014/Shivaji Nagar IV” by Georges Rousse Photo Courtesy of StoryLTD

“Mumbai 2014/Shivaji Nagar IV” by Georges Rousse
Photo Courtesy of StoryLTD

Paris-based artist Georges Rousse is a master of layering perceptions for his viewers. Locations, shapes, and spaces that were once familiar are reformed and combined in unexpected ways forming a multi-dimensional work that presents itself as both familiar and foreign. This summer StoryLTD presents Rousse’s Apnalaya Benefit Collection. This location is an interesting choice for the artist who often works in ruins or forgotten architectural spaces. In contrast, the Apnalaya center’s mission focuses on rebuilding the lives and communities of individuals in the poorest slum neighborhoods of Mumbai. I see a noteworthy correlation between the artist’s dedication to revitalizing and repositioning locations through his work and the center’s goals for supporting and improving nearby communities. Both the artist and the center create change in seemingly bleak circumstances. But how does the artist’s process bring new life into a location while still honoring the true history of the space? Unlike deteriorating ruins or forgotten spaces, the Apnalaya center is alive and active, making it harder to find this appropriative balance. Can Rousse truly claim a space as his own when the singular purpose of the location is fostering greater communities? This brings forward an intriguing discussion in regards to site-specific work in general.

Georges Rousse and his team from the Apnalaya center Photo courtesy of Apnalaya

Georges Rousse and his team from the Apnalaya center
Photo courtesy of Apnalaya


Rousse’s work has been acclaimed internationally for his unique utilization of multiple mediums simultaneously molded together to create a single dynamic piece. His practice typically consists of creating a site-specific installation using paints and other traditional mediums to bring a new aesthetic to the space. In the case of the Apnalaya collection, large stars were painted in the space to create a playful effect of physical depth and perspective. After completing the space Rousse photographs it, creating a permanent and tangible testimony of the artistic occurrence. The photograph is intended to last, while the installation is temporary. Throughout his work we see the fleeting and liminal quality of public art installations in juxtaposition with the documented finality of photography.


Installation with the Apnalaya Team Photo courtesy of Apnalaya

Installation with the Apnalaya Team
Photo courtesy of Apnalaya

Although the pieces in this collection appear simple in composition and color scheme initially, they have an entrancing quality that invites you into a unique space that is only truly represented in the artist’s photographs. He achieves the perfect balance of removing viewers from the familiar and paying visual homage to an everyday location.  The familiarity and safety of a school works in dialogue with the slightly dizzying change of perspective. Rousse’s “Nagar” series (I, II, III, IV) allow viewer’s perspective to dictate how they take in the work. The iconography in these pieces is nothing new. However, the placement and technical choices both in the original installation and the photography create an open-ended product that gives viewers freedom to determine their own viewpoint. Simply viewing the work I found it difficult to determine what is a manipulated through photography and what is in the actual space. Rousse is successful in creating an engaging mysterious quality for his viewers; familiar landscapes are tweaked to transport you elsewhere. However, with this visceral appropriation in mind, is the original space truly honored or is it simply a stepping-stone to the artist’s final product?

The Apnalya Benefit Collection will be shown on StoryLTD through July 15th. However, limited edition prints are selling fast. Find out what pieces are still available for sale here. You can also learn more about Rousse’s process by watching a video by the artist here.



Juggling Jobs, Midnight Inspiration and the Berlin LitFest

Sunandini Banerjee of Seagull Books in a candid conversation with Elisabetta Marabotto

Book illustration isn’t easy—it requires a thorough understanding of the work and author’s style, and a tricky balance of enticing the reader and conveying the message. The artwork should complement the author’s tone, and the experience of reading and viewing should leave the reader satisfied. For Kolkata based Sunandini Banerjee, this balancing act seems to come quite effortlessly. As Senior Editor and Senior Graphic Designer at the renowned Seagull Books, she has over a decade of skill (and talent) backing her up. She joined Seagull after completing her Masters in English Literature from Jadavpur University, Kolkata, in 2000, and soon delved into illustration. Anyone familiar with French author Diane Meur’s “In Dreams” (2013), South African writer Ivan Vladislavić’s “The Loss Library” (2012), and Austrian novelist, poet and playwright Thomas Bernhard’s “Victor Halfwit” (2011), would be acquainted with her digital collages. She now juggles adeptly between editing, translating, designing covers, and illustrating.

Cats Everywhere 01”, Digital Print on Archival Paper. Second from a Limited Edition of Seven

Cats Everywhere 01”, Digital Print on Archival Paper. Second from a Limited Edition of Seven

A limited edition of collages from Seagull Books’ annual catalogue is part of the Thieving Magpie collection on StoryLTD. I interviewed her on her foray into illustration, her work, and her source of inspiration—a much-dreaded question for many artists and writers—which Sunandini tackled with poise:

Me: Coming from a literature background, how did you get into illustration?

Sunandini: I think my literature background was absolutely essential by way of preparing me for my foray into design/collage/illustration. The pictures in my head are intimately linked to both the words on the page I am reading and to the words in my head from other books I have read. Memories, stories, echoes of other words help me think of images, pictures and colours, all of which then come together in a collage. The words are the inspiration, and in this my degree in literature helped for one of the most important things I was taught during my college and university days was to not only read the words that were being written but to also hear the words that were being left out.

“Calcutta Notebook”, Digital Print on Archival Paper. Third from a Limited Edition of Seven.

“Calcutta Notebook”, Digital Print on Archival Paper. Third from a Limited Edition of Seven.

Me: How do you balance your several jobs? Does one take over the other at times?

Sunandini: With a lot of coffee, and with an incredible amount of support and good humour from my colleagues. Yes, sometimes being an editor and a graphic designer for a small publishing house can be quite a challenge. But this is the only job I know (I’ve never had another) and this is the only way I know how to work—juggling, flowing from one to another, fighting down panic on some days and being infinitely zen on some others. Sometimes I edit more than I design, sometimes the other way around. Depending on the deadlines, sometimes one does take over the other. Sometimes, one also affords a certain relief from the other.

Me: Where do you find your source of inspiration?

Sunandini: In the books I read, in the people I meet, in the music I listen to, in the films I watch, in nature, in the flower market, in the saree shop, at the bangle-seller’s, in an online shoe store, in comics, in conversation, in the middle of the night, in a plate of chicken biriyani . . . in life, actually. It’s all around me. It’s hard to switch it off sometimes.

“Morning”, Digital Archive on Paper. Sixth from a Limited Edition of Seven

“Morning”, Digital Archive on Paper. Sixth from a Limited Edition of Seven

Me: Do you create artworks apart from book illustrations?

Sunandini: I’d love to but no. I’m still enjoying the interacting of word and picture. Perhaps some day my pictures may break free of the word. Who knows?

Me: Being both an editor and illustrator, do you think words are more powerful than images?

Sunandini: Not at all. A well-written novel can move you just as much as a beautiful collage.

Me: What is your next project?

Sunandini: Books, books and more books. And designing posters for the Berlin LitFest in September 2014.

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