Realism in Indian Art



Realism – as the name signifies – is an effort aimed at capturing reality in its essence. It presents life as it is. Realism in art or realistic art refers to the School that tries to capture nature in exactness. It is mimesis proper. Realist art has two dimensions. In technique, it refers to the depiction of the subject matter in exact accurateness and in requisite proportions. In theme, it refers to the depiction of subjects in their true context.

In the West, Realistic Art started off as a movement in the early 19th century against the Classical and Romantic Schools that seemed to be far removed from the real life of man and nature. However, in Indian context, realism in art can only be used to refer to the realist techniques used in painting. These techniques too have been largely influenced by the West. It was with the Greeks that realist painting techniques were introduced to India. The Mauryan, Gandhar and Mathura arts of the 2nd century BC bear testimony to this.

The realist paintings resumed its prominence in India with the Company School of painting in the early 19th century. The objective of the Company artists was to capture the Indian lives in photographic details. With the patronage of the colonial government this style spread everywhere and many painters of the 19th century India were deeply influenced by this style of Art.

Some of the well-known painters who used realist techniques were Babu Rao Painter, Raja Ravi Verma and Hemen Majumdar. They used the realist technique of light and shade quite effectively. But in their themes they were best compared to the romanticist painters of Europe. Amrita Shergill also used realist techniques in some of her works, but later she too had moved away from that style.

In post-independence era no Indian artist has ever been truly realist though the techniques of realism has been used by many artists like artists like Anjolie Ela Menon, Yusuf Arakkal, Bikash Bhattacharya, Devajyoti Ray, Sunil Das, Shibu Natesan, Sanjay Bhattacharya and Dibyendu Bhadra. Among them the best known in the use of realist technique are probably Bikash Bhattacharya and his disciple Sanjay Bhattacharya.

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