Defined as ‘a print textured to resemble an oil painting’, oleographs began to flourish in the 1870s in the wake of nationalism and academic art education in India. Through their upcoming exhibition Windows to the Gods, Kalakriti Art Gallery in collaboration with Creatif is all set to showcase 90 rare and early oleographs and chromolithographs from the masters.
The upcoming exhibition from May 17, will highlight the works of Raja Ravi Varma, M. V. Dhurandhar, Bamapada Banerjee and many other artists from late 19th and 20th century India. Elaborating on the collection, straight from the Kalakriti Archives, Prshant Lahoti, Director Kalakriti Art Gallery says, “I have been collecting artworks from the past 20 years from around the world and I felt the time was apt to showcase the collection of oleographs. Arkaprava Bose, the curator has been working on it for the past three months to shortlist the best and categorise them into different genres. The main purpose of the show is to raise awareness about the many artists who have done credible work but haven’t got their due recognition as Raja Ravi Varma, who not only popularised but also ennobled the aesthetic status of the mass-produced picture prints.”
“Many feel that paintings of Gods are not artworks, but they are as exquisite as other forms of painting. The Chitrashala Press, Poona was one of the earliest and most famous commercial art studios widely known for their historical portraits, iconic and mythological prints. We are including a number of rare early chromolithographs of the Press like Rampanchaytam from the late 1880s. It is one of the most successful prints as it effectively captures the amalgamation of both western and Indian cultures,” shares Arkaprava, who adds that Ravi Varma’s success encouraged many talented artists of his generation and later to publish coloured lithographs of their paintings.
The present 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.
Talking about that generation of contemporary artists who worked on the same genre, yet with stark differences, Arkaprava says, “M.V. Dhurandhar was very close to Raja Ravi Varma and used to work with him. Even though Dhurandhar was inspired by Varma, his working style was different. The inclusivity of regional diversity was seen in everyone’s work, making each of them unique.”
Apart from the centuries old oleographs, the other main attraction on display is the large format embellished lithographic prints. “There was a tradition of women from 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. We have tried to showcase that aspect of the artwork as well,” he concludes....