Painting the Modern in India features seven renowned painters who came of age during the height of the movement to free India from British rule. To liberate themselves from a position at the margins of an art world shaped by the colonial establishment, they organized path-breaking associations — the Calcutta Artists Group in 1943, the Progressive Artists Group in 1947 Bombay, and the Delhi Shilpi Chakra in 1949. They pioneered new approaches to painting, repositioning their own art practices internationally and in relation to the 5,000-year history of art in India.
These artists created hybrid styles that are an under-appreciated yet essential component of the broad sweep of art in the 20th century. After independence in 1947, they took advantage of new opportunities in art centers around the world, especially Paris, London and New York, intensifying their quests for what the Bombay Progressives termed "aesthetic order, plastic coordination and color composition." At the same time, they looked deeply into their own artistic heritage, learning from the first exhibition of Indian art in 1948 at Raj Bhavan in Delhi and taking inspiration from ancient sites like the old city in Benaras and the temples at Khajuraho.
The works on view are drawn from the Peabody Essex Museum's Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection, the most important holding of 20th-century art from India in this country, and The Tina and Anil Ambani Collection, one of India's leading private collections.
Support provided by the East India Marine Associates (EIMA) of the Peabody Essex Museum.