Art and Design in the Life of Bhanu Athaiya: Realizing a Dream By Gayatri Sinha
As a girl born into the priestly class of pandits from the royal house of Kolhapur in 1929, Bhanumati Rajopadhye may have appeared as an unlikely instigator of dramatic change in the sphere of mass aesthetics. But it is no exaggeration to say that she led the nation’s gaze in the appreciation of feminine beauty, mined the country’s craft and couture traditions, and created waves in the worlds of fashion and consumer desire. One of the questions around Bhanu Athaiya’s vast oeuvre is how do we address her art in the context of her work in cinema and vice-versa.
Eclectic Visions unfolded in the bustling heart of Delhi, showcasing the rich tapestry of artistic expression. From poignant socio-political commentary to vibrant explorations of heritage and the fusion of jazz and art, our exhibit was a celebration of diverse voices and perspectives. The exhibit brought together four distinct voices, each weaving their narratives into the fabric of creativity.
Bhanu Athaiya's life story is a testament to the power of talent, determination, and passion. Born in Kolhapur, India, in 1929, Bhanu's artistic journey was shaped by her father Annasaheb Rajopadhye, an amateur artist who introduced her to the world of art. Kolhapur, a significant artistic center in the early 20th century, was a hotbed of creativity and social upheaval, with the local king actively promoting artisans. This environment exposed Bhanu to the likes of Abalal Rahiman, Dhurandhar, and Baburao Painter, who were prominent figures in the artistic circle of Kolhapur. Of particular note, Baburao Painter was a multifaceted artist who made significant contributions to both painting and filmmaking in India.
As we prepare for the exhibitions of Gobardhan Ash and Rathin Maitra, we have realised that the context and continuum of the modernist movement around the 1940s are somehow forgotten. We strive to bring them to light with the hope of more research and discussions. (Refer here) This write-up focuses on Calcutta and Bombay.
'Bharat through the lens of Bhanu Athaiya' celebrates the doyenne of costume design Bhanu Rajopadhye Athaiya, and her exemplary vision of India. The exhibit delved into the essence of India embodied by Bhanu's iconic costume designs crafted for Indian cinema. A trailblazer in defining the aesthetics of a new India through her creations, Bhanu left an indelible mark on cinema.
Focusing on Modernism in Indian Art in the early 20th century
At Prinseps, we are working to change the discourse to redefine the critical period for modernism in India as the first half of the 20th century. Though academia reiterates the same, the art trade seems to have strayed with a focus on the later part of the 20th century. The early 20th century witnessed the uprising of major art movements questioning the status quo.
Bhanu's Stunning Designs for the First Calico Fashion Show of 1958
Fashion is a vibrant and ever-evolving art form that reflects the spirit of an era. In the annals of Indian fashion history, one event stands out as a pivotal moment in time – the first Calico fashion show of 1958. In 1958, Bhanu Athaiya was invited by Ebrahim Alkazi to design the first traveling promotional fashion show in independent India for Calico Mills. This event took place at the "India '58" Trade Fair in New Delhi, making it a pivotal moment in Indian fashion history.
Ram Kumar’s existence in the art world was much like a peaceful mountain, exuding a sense of serenity and enduring presence. The reticent artist wielded both the pen and brush but ultimately embraced the latter as his mightier sword of choice. Born in 1924 in Shimla, Kumar’s meditative surroundings deeply affected his sensibilities as an artist. He imbibed a sense of calm from the silent mountains and the clear blue skies that found expression in his paintings. His affinity with nature, the serene flow of slow-seeping rivers, the allure of solitary spaces, and the haunting charm of abandoned structures would all combine to establish him as the foremost significant abstract painter in the Modern Indian art world.
Rathin Maitra (b. 1913), along with Prodosh Das Gupta, established the Calcutta Group, which gained widespread recognition in India for its influential contribution to modern Indian painting much before the Progressives.
I sit staring into the blank canvas. My mind is unfettered, reaching out to embrace the world. All these shapes and scenes flit lucidly through my head, some familiar, others, I know not. Speaking of Modern Art, I must emphasise the fact that the art being created these days, cannot simply be labeled as Indian Art.