Art at the NGMA / National Museum

#1 May 27th, 2013, 16:28
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The National Gallery of Modern Art (based on my recollection) comprises four blocks that are open at present to the visitors. As one walks in from the parking lot, the first block, on the right is the Jaipur House building. Built in 1936, a part of Lutyen's Delhi, this building is well worth observing closely in its own right.

At present, there are no exhibitions inside this lovely building adorned with carved elephant relief on its walls. Instead, painting classes for children are being held. To its immediate left is the second and main building - the 'new wing'. A little further, turning a corner is the twin of the new wing (the second and third floor of which are accessible from the new wing by covered walkways). Opposite the twin building is the cafeteria and to its right are the office and administrative blocks.

I walked in the glass doors of the new wing and even while purchasing the tickets (an otherwise unpleasant experience) felt so welcome as I never have been by the Government of India. A strong draft of hermetically cooled air bathed my sweat drenched frame. I was finally at the right place.

Stepping inside, one is immediately struck by the excellent design - each floor is accessible by ramps as well as a stair case and an elevator. Wheelchairs are available for those unable to walk (and there's an attendant to help push that chair up the ramp as well). (this photo taken by a cellphone camera from the mezz level does not show any art work but should give an idea about the buildings interiors)

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By this time, I was excessively thirsty and hastily drank as much water as my rice filled belly would allow.

'Company artists are exhibited on the lower level' - said the lady at the X-ray machine. So I walked down and was pleasantly surprised that the museum had chosen to display a number of miniature paintings. Wah! Plenty of Rajput school paintings depicting the many moods of royalty such as a princess accepting betel leaf, a prince on a hunt , an amorous couple, etc were on display. I then understood that the only criterion for the work to qualify as 'modern' was that it should have been done post 1850 (earlier than that, and you end up at the National Museum).

I had seen just about a dozen paintings when the gentle breeze and the loads of water poured over the buckets of rice inside my stomach started playing tricks with my body - a tremendous sense of drowsiness overpowered me. I didn't have to look far to feel even more welcomed by the government. The most thoughtfully designed works of modern art on display were right before my eyes - on each floor, there is a set of these (see below).

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I was firmly ensconced in the gentle lap of one such marvel for a good twenty minutes. ("This is surely better than the metro - tee hee"). No one bothered me (another thumbs up for non-obtrusive vigilance that one doesn't find in government buildings in India). Eventually, my will power and sense of being stared at brought me back from the dreamy adventure I was about to commence on. I moved on.

The company style of painting exhibit was, frankly, a bit of a disappointment. There were about three paintings that either belonged to the Fraser Album or were by the same set of artists. Of the rest, the kalighat school appeared quite crude to me (this is purely a matter of personal taste as I shall expound a bit later). Some notable exhibits on the lower level (that has only half the space for display as compared to the second and third levels) included a portrait of Wajid Ali Shah, lithographs by the Chitrakala Parishad, Poona of Tipu Sultan (both iconic paintings) and a highly unusual Guru Nanak (it was not done by Sir Sobha Singh).

There were also four excellent works by Lala Deen Dayal, who was one of the first Indian photographers. A few other photographs of Hyderabad at the turn of the twentieth century are on display on the second level in the adjoining wing. These photos show the kind of opulent lifestyle the then Nizam of Hyderabad had enjoyed (Lala was the court photographer to the Nizam and then the official photographer of the viceroy and had unparalleled access to the lives of the high and the mighty).

What marred this entire level was how many paintings were mislabeled and some of them suffered badly from inaccurate translations. (e.g. 'Peshwa of Poona' was not translated as Prime Minister of but rather as 'Peshwa of Peshwa').

However, if you even have an iota of interest in Indian Miniatures or in the evolution of painting in India, visiting this still makes a lot of sense.

Moving on, the mezzanine level had what were of second most interest to me- paintings by William and Thomas Daniell. Anyone who has read NCERT textbooks in school will immediately recognize the painting style. What came as a surprise was that while this Uncle and nephew duo were better known for their water colors, they had produced some stunning oils as well. Thus, we see here, in approximately four feet by three feet, a sight of Varanasi in the early nineteenth century showing Aurangzeb's tomb* and a ghat. (caution: Very large image)

There was another oil showing Manikarnika ghat as well as a third that showed an unknown mosque. By viewing these oils in person, it is very easy to understand why they are such celebrated painters. Their art work has a sense of scale, of realism that each would immediately substitute for a photograph - at a time when photography did not exist.

(* suspect the Daniell was misinformed and it may have been the Gyanvapi masjid from the look of the painting).

Other notable exhibits in the immediate neighborhood included an Emily Eden - an iconic lithograph of the one eyed Ranjit Singh and Marshal Claxton's Calcutta. There were some Thanjavur paintings, and several other impressive portraits done by Indian artists of the company school. I certainly did not understand Abanindranath Tagore though the technique of using wash and color on paper gave all the paintings a certain texture. Nor did i understand others such as Mukul Dey.

I was about to turn back when at the far end of the mezzanine level an MAR Chughtai caught my eye. I couldn't quite place the sense of familiarity that his paintings brought upon me as I was certain I had never seen any of his works before. Reading up I realize that Chughtai had created his own style heavily influenced by the Mughal school and that he's the national artist of Pakistan. What I saw yesterday were sinewy limbs, a sense of proportion and a delicate near-erotic quality in the depictions completely missing from most of the other paintings I had seen that day. His 'Holi' and Hiraman Tota certainly leave one spellbound.

Moving back I came face to face with the works of my favorite Indian artist - Raja Ravi Varma. I don't have words to describe his work, nor is there any need to. His portrait of a gentleman (seen below, courtesy wikipedia) may be seen in the gallery as well as some oleographs of Damyanti and the Swan, a court scene (inspired by the Mahabharata, etc).



Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Fi..._Gentleman.jpg

(to be continued)
Last edited by vaibhav_arora; Jun 5th, 2018 at 09:46..
#2 May 27th, 2013, 17:18
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National Gallery of Modern Art - Part two

I continued to trudge upwards on the ramp to the third level and came face to face with a board exclaiming - Centenary of Amrita Shergill. Shergill is often referred to as India's Frida Kahlo. I had no knowledge of her art (except that she is considered the most expensive Indian artist by some) but certainly had heard of her scandalous life. This article by Khushwant Singh provides an insight.

This level had about twenty large oils by Shergill - a few of them the nudes that she painted in her Paris studio. Others, paintings of ordinary Indian women that she did later in life. She was certainly very prolific. Continuing on, others on the floor include Jamini Roy's iconic mother and child painting as well as some fantastic paintings by Nandalal bose.

I used the enclosed walkway and moved to the twin of the new building. The upper level had several large 'modern' canvas paintings that I couldnt make head or tail of including Tyeb Mehta's triptych. There were some absolutely outstanding portraits of the leading ladies of Bollywood of yesteryears including Nutan, Madhubala, Nargis and Meenakumari. Each portrait is done on canvas in oil but mimics the style of hand painted bollywood posters (an art form which is now lost; see samples here and here).

I breezily walked past many a canvas on this level and went back down to the mezzanine of this building as well. This proved to be a welcome finish to the visit of the main building as many turn of the century photographs by Lala Deen Dayal were exhibited here. An iconic Raghu Rai (the Bhopal Gas victim) could be seen here (disturbing image). An interesting series called 'The master' depicted screen legends of yesteryears at work with the dance instructor - Saroj Khan.

It was time for me to move on as there's only so much art work that I can take in a day - aircon or not. The basement of the twin building housed a contemporary exhibition comprising solely of architectural drawings for the upcoming campus of Nalanda University in Bihar. That was all I had the patience for and I called it a day. It was around 4 pm when I left the premises of the NGMA.

It was a great experience!
#3 Dec 10th, 2017, 17:26
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#3

Rarely seen art at the NGMA / National Museum

Hello all,

Time to revive my favorite section with some first hand info.

There is an exceptional exhibition on 70 years of Indian freedom at the National Gallery of Modern Art, Jaipur House, India Gate. The exhibition is very well curated and though there are many important events that are not depicted in the run up to freedom, it features material rarely seen. What's even better is that the NGMA has started allowing non flash photography!

The first section is rare photographs - many iconic , all by Kulwant Roy- A.P.s chief photographer - this one with Nehru, Gandhi and Patel sitting together (first photo)

This one has Frontier Gandhi (Khan Abdul ghaffar Khan) , Nehru in front of the viceregal Lodge in Shimla while Patel is carried in a hand pulled rickshaw. (second)

This one is even more interesting, it shows the composer of kadam kadam badhaye ja - Ram Singh Thakuri- with Gandhi - while this song is played on the violin for him. Understandably Gandhi is not pleased - the song was Netaji's regimental quick March song!!(third below)

There is a large section of Tempera paintings by nandlal bose - he produced those as wall decorations for congress's haripura session in '38. I don't understand Bose's style very much but his illustrations in the original constitution (also on display) are fantastic. (fourth below)

A dozen or more pencil sketches and paintings by art director MR Achrekar show many individual revolts against the British culminating in the first war of Independence (1857). Kudos to the NGMA for digging these out. See the expression on the Nihangs face as he attacks the sepoy. (fifth)

There are pieces from the national archives - a piece published by Dr Ram Manohar Lohia on the Cripps mission(42)

Some curious cartoon like posters painted and possibly lithographed with writing in Hindi and Bengali, dating back to the Quit India movement - 42- this one shows Winston churchill- imaginatively as weaving a web and storing all of India's riches (seventh)

This one, more to the point , asks INC and ML to stop quibbling and get on with the task of gaining freedom.(eighth)

And last, a poster from Netaji's army. (last)

This exibiition was supposed to get over on Sep 17, but is still on, maybe it has come back home. What're you waiting for? Go!
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Last edited by vaibhav_arora; May 21st, 2018 at 11:49..
#4 May 5th, 2018, 21:57
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Just returned from a contemporary art exhibition at the NGMA that is a set of loaned pieces from Petah Tikva museum of art, Israel. This was all done to commemorate 25 years of India Israel diplomatic relations. These installations are by contemporary artists and were stunning in scale, composition and execution. I don't know much about this form of art but it was moving.

Some photos.
Algae growing device -
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To give you some idea of the space where it was held - this is about one sixth or less of the area
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This installation has a video of the artist lying naked on a huge float of watermelons some of which were cut open to resemble flesh. It evokes memories of an unwinding DNA piece. Riveting.
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#5 May 5th, 2018, 22:00
It's all Greek to me, but Benglish will do
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#5
Fascinating !
#6 May 6th, 2018, 11:31
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I visited the 70 years of freedom exhibition when I was in Delhi last year. Those Nandlal Bose paintings are depictions of artisans as "gods".

Some years ago there was an exhibition of works by Subodh Gupta at the NGMA. The "tree" on the lawn is was installed at that time.


Source: http://museemagazine.com/culture/unc...ew-delhi-india

Now there is a comprehensive exhibition of his work at Paris:

https://www.monnaiedeparis.fr/en/tem...s/subodh-gupta
#7 May 6th, 2018, 12:13
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He is everywhere!!! This is from my Bangalore office - RMZ ecoworld , outer ring road. A few of us were joking that if we have something missing in the kitchen, now's our chance
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#8 May 6th, 2018, 12:56
It's all Greek to me, but Benglish will do
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Where is the laughing smiley icon ? Thanks to these posts I know now which exhibition to visit in Paris during an upcoming visit !
#9 May 20th, 2018, 20:36
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Today at the National Museum, I visited the traveling exhibition 'India and the World'. It's very well curated and quite an achievement for the National Museum to be a part of something like this. Apparently it's a collaboration between The British Museum, National Museum Delhi and CSV (Bombay V&A) museum. I could type something longwinded but this HT article does a better job.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/mumba...nttKcyTyN.html

quite amusing and a great feeling to view stuff rarely seen in India - Hadrian's bronze head, Limestone carving from Persepolis, Chinese porcelain plate, Rembrandt sketch of Jahangir - over 200 objects with a very good attempt at storytelling (something that most Indian museums make no attempt of).

After visiting The Met, AMNH, Smithsonian's 3-4 museums, Chicago Art and Field, I cannot say this is exactly world class - but full marks for trying. It's better than anything I've seen here for sure. On till 30th June in Delhi if you're around.

I'll post a few photos of what i found fascinating, later.
#10 May 20th, 2018, 21:57
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Pp1 (picture postcard 1)

A showcase of earthenware vases from different parts of the old world - nothing after AD some as far back as 3000bc - India China Vietnam Samarra Egypt etc, all used for eating rice

Then from the British museum, replica of a wooden box from Ur showing a war procession

Head of a king from Mesopotamia - top left

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#11 May 20th, 2018, 22:02
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Pp2 - clockwise

Limestone carving showing soldier from Persepolis - always wanted to go to PP/ Iran

Hadrian's head - bronze discovered in Thames river - 150ad

Hadrian's head next to Roman recreation of some Greek dudes head didn't read description too well was totally taken by Hadrian's head

Helpful map showing civilizations shown here , distracted by air-conditioning (me). Beautiful

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#12 May 20th, 2018, 22:15
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Pp3 - top and then bottom

Top left is Chinese porcelain date-able to fourteenth century and discovered in a dig in Delhi - apparently these were highly prized by sultanate Kings including Tughlaqs. On right of the same is Vietnamese porcelain of a later date, a century or so and from the British museum collection.
On left is the invitation given by a wealthy Jain merchant to a Jain monk to stay at his home for the period of four months when it rains and they stop their itinerant movements. Then there's a description of the same

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#13 May 20th, 2018, 22:24
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Pp-4

A fascinatingly detailed astrolabe from Egypt and an altarpiece from Se Cathedral, Goa (permanently housed in the museum of christian art, Goa) with their descriptions below (interchanged while creating a collage) - not very legible so roughly the bird's open stomach is where the consecrated bread and wine would be kept. The bird represents sacrifice as it is said to rip open its own stomach to feed its children.

Astrolabe's signs are astrological entities - fish, crab etc - all from the islamic period of egypt (12th century AD or thereabouts)

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Last edited by vaibhav_arora; May 21st, 2018 at 12:23..
#14 May 21st, 2018, 01:44
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How come your phtographs come out so well and mine don't? Don't answer that..
#15 May 21st, 2018, 11:05
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Rembrandt's sketch of Jahangir - quite an east meets west piece. Then an Italian engraving of a Rhinoceros created by an artist based only on description of what it looks like. The animal was sent as a gift from India to the then Pope but perished during the journey

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