Ans. Raja Ravi Varma was one of the first artists who tried to create a style that was both modern and national. He mastered the Western art of oil painting and realistic life study, but painted themes from Indian mythology. He dramatised on canvas, scene after scene from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. From the 1880s, Ravi Varma’s mythological paintings became the rage among Indian princes and art collectors.
Ans. European artists brought with them the idea of realism. This was a belief that artists had to observe carefully and depict faithfully what the eye saw. What the artist produced was expected to look real and lifelike. European artists also brought with them the technique of oil painting – a technique with which Indian artists were not very familiar. Oil painting enabled artists to produce images that looked real.
Ans. Raja Ravi Varma was one of the first artists who tried to create a style that was both modern and national. He mastered the Western art of oil painting and realistic life study, but painted themes from Indian mythology. He dramatised on canvas, scene after scene from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, drawing on the theatrical performances of mythological stories that he witnessed during his tour of the Bombay Presidency.
Ans. One of the most famous of the European painter was Johann Zoffany. He was born in Germany, migrated to England and came to India in the mid-1780s for 5 years. In his paintings, he showed Indians as submissive, inferior and as serving their white masters. He showed the British as superior, imperious: British flaunting their clothes, stand regally or sit arrogantly, and live life of luxury. Indians usually occupy a shadowy background in his painting.
Ans. Some artists rejected the art of Ravi Varma as imitative and westernised and declared that such a style was unsuitable for depicting the nation’s ancient myths and legends. They felt that a genuine Indian style of painting had to draw inspiration from non-Western art traditions, and try to capture the spiritual essence of the East. So they broke away from the convention of oil painting and the realistic style, and turned for inspiration to medieval Indian traditions of miniature painting and the ancient art of mural painting in the Ajanta caves.
Ans. Thomas Daniell and his nephew William Daniell were the most famous of the artists who painted within this tradition. They came to India in 1785 and stayed for seven years, journeying from Calcutta to northern and southern India. They produced some of the most evocative picturesque landscapes of Britain’s newly conquered territories in India. Their large oil paintings on canvas were regularly exhibited to select audiences in Britain, and their albums of engravings were eagerly bought up by a British public keen to know about Britain’s empire.
Ans. British officials, who found the world in the colonies different from that back home, wanted images through which they could understand India, remember their life in India, and depict India to the Western world. So we find local painters producing a vast number of images of local plants and animals, historical buildings and monuments, festivals and processions, trades and crafts, castes and communities. These pictures, eagerly collected by the East India Company officials, came to be known as Company paintings.
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