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Thursday, September 18, 2014


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NGMA was established with the objective of promoting modern art in the country. It aimed to acquire and preserve works of art from 1857 onwards. The art collection of the NGMA is vast and eclectic. The 17,000 works within it testify to a rich and resplendent past even as they pay tribute to the present. Its treasures span miniature paintings to modernist interventions and au courant contemporary expressions.

The NGMAís accent was always on acquisition of paintings, sculptures, graphics and later photographs. Putting together a qualitatively superior collection became a goal of critical importance. That NGMA should become a repository of works that tracked the transformation of pictorial language was always kept in view. The task became particularly significant because of the distinctive character of modern Indian art.

Much care was lavished in the building up of a modern and contemporary collection. Not only was attention paid in acquiring the old masters like Raja Ravi Varma, Abanindranath Tagore, as well as modernists like Amrita Sher-Gil and Rabindranath Tagore, et al, but also the focus on important contemporary art was a prime concern. Thus the NGMA purchased M F Husainís landmark 1955 work Zameen where the artistís use of icons and symbols were articulated in a monumental sweep. Similarly, Husainís Farmerís Family, where ordinary people were endowed with tremendous dignity and iconic quality, became a valuable addition to the collection. Another landmark painting, Tyeb Mehtaís Santiniketan Triptych, where the brilliant fields of colour hold together an array of convulsed figures, entered the NGMA collection in the 90s. The whole collection process not only looked at art practices in different art centres like Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Baroda and Santiniketan but also took note of the important art activity in Delhi Thus NGMA acquired Bhabesh Sanyal, Sailoz Mukherjee, Ram Kumar, Krishen Khanna, J Swaminathan, Manjit Bawa, Anjolie Ela Menon, Paramjit Singh, Arpita Singh among others.

Some objects of minor arts came to NGMA gratis from the Government toshakhana (treasury), only because they were made after 1857. These were the regalia Ė ceremonial chairs, silver salvers, richly embroidered velvet drapes, various silver objects Ė made for the 1911 Delhi Durbar and other vice-regal Durbars.

Works of art for the NGMA were obtained through purchase, permanent loans and gifts. One of the most generous and most valuable gifts was a large body of bold, vibrant, painterly works by Amrita Sher-Gil. It came from her father Sardar Umrao Singh and her brother-in-law KCK Sundaram. Sher-Gilís husband Dr Victor Egan, however, sold some 44 paintings to NGMA. Together, the Amrita Sher-Gil corpus became one of the treasures of NGMA. The paintings came to NGMA between 1949 to 1950.

The perpetual loan to NGMA by the trustees of Rasaja Foundation of its collection of 1273 works was a significant addition to the gallery a few years back. The collection had been put together by the late artist and art historian Jaya Appasamy and included a large number of works of art done by indigenous artists during the 19th and early 20th Centuries. This addition has enhanced considerably the galleryís collection of early period of modern Indian art when the interface between Britain and India accelerated the process of change in the traditional styles of expression.

The NGMA had also acquired from various sources by way of purchases and gifts works of various European and Far Eastern artists. There are in the collection many works by European artists who visited India in the 18th and 19th Centuries and portraits and exotic Indian scenes. Among them Tilly Kettle, William Hodges, Thomas Daniell, Emily Eden and many others deserve special notice.
 

Miniature Painting

Tanjore and Mysore

European Traveller Artists

Company Period

Kalighat Painting

Academic Realism

Bengal School

Amrita Sher-Gil

Jamini Roy

Gaganendranath Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore

Shantiniketan

Artists Collectives

Abstraction in Contemporary Indian Art

Art Movements of 1960s

Art Movements in 1970s

Contemporaries

Modern Sculptures

Print Making

Photography