Arts and Culture
For the past several years I have been working with the private collection of modern Indian art of Jane and Kito de Boer. While the collection spans the period from the mid-19th century to the present day, my focus has been on the pre-Independence material. The paper will consider the work of a group of artists who studied at the Bombay School of Art under John Griffiths in the late 19th/early 20th century – a group that included Pestonji Bomanji, M.F. Pithawalla amd M.V. Dhurandhar. Apart from looking at their works in the collection, the paper will address the powerful advocacy of these artists by W.E. Gladstone Solomon (Director from 1918), and Kannaiyalal Vakil, co-curator of an exhibition of modern Indian Art in London in 1934. Their pugnacious promotion of the Bombay school in direct opposition to the Bengal school raises seminal issues about how we read the development of modern Indian art. The paper will show how the broadly accepted narrative of that development was established by early publications by G. Venkatachalam (1948), P.R. Ramachandra Rao (1953) and W.G. Archer (1959), all of which ignored or dismissed the early Bombay school. Their clear and simple narrative has endured; but before their publications, the situation appeared richer and more complex, with no definitive mainstream. The purpose of the paper is to rediscover that complexity and to consider its implications for the writing of grand narratives.