The Five Greatest Indian Artists in History (19th and 20th Century)

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There have been many illustrious and famous artists throughout Indian history, all with distinctly personal styles of art. Influences in Indian art range from religious to tribal and many pieces present complex combinations of styles and a plethora of interactions between multiple cultural influences. 

In turn, the artists of India have influenced many other countries’ art forms. For example, Britain imported a great deal of Indian art and there is clear evidence of Indian influence in British art and architecture. The following artists are all relatively modern and lived in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, a particularly rich time for Indian art.

 1. Raja Ravi Varma

raja_ravi_varma_self_portraitImage Source: 121clicks

Varma’s paintings are especially notable because of the remarkable blend of Indian and European styles that they display. In one of the paintings shown, a young Indian mother in a white sari cradles her child. You can really see the western influence in the style of the portrait, right down to the family dog in the background. 

The sari-clad woman is in fact Varma’s daughter with his granddaughter. Most of Varma’s paintings were done with oil paints, and many were inspired or based on Hindu mythology and legend. Many depict scenes from the Ramayana or Mahabharata, including a beautiful scene in which a divine bird is attacked by the evil Ravanna 

1-ravi-varma-paintingsThere comes Papa-Image Source: Webneel

2. Amrita Shergill 

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Shergill is one of India’s most famous female artists. Half Indian and half Hungarian, she lived a short but prolific life in the early half of the twentieth century. She was educated in Paris, which explains the strong European influence in some of her works. Her paintings differ substantially from most others of her time in that they focus much less on realism.

Her paintings emphasize stylistic freedom over detail. This is prominent in her South Indian Villagers Going to Market (link: ). Her artwork is also the most expensive in India. One of her pieces, Village Scene, sold for over 1.5 million dollars.

Amrita_Sher-Gil_-_South_Indian_Villagers_Going_to_MarketSouth India villagers going to the market-Image Source: Wikimedia

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3. Maniam

maniam_studioImage Source: Animation

Also known as T.V. Subramaniam, Maniam lived during the same period as Amrita Shergill did. Maniam was an illustrator and played an important role in bringing serials and novels to life through his colourful imagery.  

Though his artwork is not as detailed as most, it demonstrates the modernization and evolution of India with regards to magazines and serials. The image shown is from a large historical fiction serial which Maniam illustrated. Maniam’s son is today a leading Tamil illustrator and continues his father’s legacy.

PS_003Image Source: Animation

 4. Rabindranath Tagore

Robi1430972363Image Source: Risingbd

One of the most celebrated artists in India is Rabindranath Tagore, a polymath involved in many fields including poetry, literature, and, of course, art. Though Tagore is best known for his poetry, at sixty he decided to take up painting.

That’s right, he’s the kind of guy who not only at sixty takes up painting after an incredible literary career, but succeeds as a painter. He was even colour blind, which resulted in his artwork containing some bizarre choices of color.

The piece shown is untitled and perfectly presents Tagore’s unusual colour choice, or lack thereof. On another note, if poetry is more your speed, Tagore’s Gitanjali is probably the most fantastic book of Indian poetry you will ever read.  

lot-20-tagore-untitled-portrait-of-a-womanImage Source: Ridingtheelephant

5. Abanindranath Tagore

Abanindranath-TagoreImage Source: Indania

It’s no coincidence that the Tagore name occurs twice on this page. The Tagore family is extremely well-known and has produced many artists. He is the nephew of Rabindranath Tagore, and it is a woefully inadequate statement to say that he inherited “some” of the poet’s artistic talent. The featured painting is Journey’s End.

Unlike many other Indian artists, Abanindranath Tagore attempted to return to more traditional Indian-only roots in his works. This is clear in his illustration of the dying camel, which shows a minimal western influence. In classic Tagore family tradition, Abanindranath was also a skilled writer and produced many stories.

800px-Abanindranath_Tagore_-_Journey's_End_-_Google_Art_ProjectJourney’s end-Image Source: Wikimedia

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