The work of leading Twentieth Century Indian Artists - Francis Newton Souza, Maqbool Fida Husain, Syed Haider Raza, Tyeb Mehta, and Avinash Chandra will be exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery in London, from the 14th to 22nd May 2003. The exhibition will focus on the early period of these artists' careers in the decades immediately following India's independence.
The tremendous sense of release and exhilaration which swept the art world in the wake of World War II was felt strongly in India. The Progressive Artists Group, founded in 1947, became the foremost amongst a number of collectives that came to represent the new art of post-Independence India. Artists from this group including F N Souza, M F Husain and S H Raza gained considerable recognition in India during this early period but struggled to survive as professional artists within India. The result was that, with the notable exception of Husain, Europe became the training ground for many of the leading Indian artists of the period. In 1949 Souza embarked for London, followed later by Avinash Chandra and Tyeb Mehta. Meanwhile Raza settled in Paris where shortly he was joined by Ram Kumar, and Akbar Padamsee. So for several decades the leading lights of the Indian contemporary art scene lived, worked and exhibited abroad.
This exhibition does not profess to be a comprehensive reflection of the styles and tendencies of Indian art in the post war decades but instead it presents some significant works by some of these senior Indian artists whilst they worked abroad. The works have been gathered from a range of sources, but for the most part they are from private European collections. The provenance of these works is significant since it reflects the recognition and critical acclaim gained by these artists amongst European collectors and art critics during an early period in their respective careers. Thus, the show may help to challenge the frequently held opinion that appreciation of contemporary Indian art in the West is merely a recent trend.
Figure Red, a Tyeb Mehta oil from 1961, is executed in heavily textured and muted colours applied with a palette knife and reveals an important early phase in the artist's career, whilst Le Village, is an exceptionally early oil on board by M F Husain dated to 1950. Other highlights of the show include a 1947 gouache on paper by F N Souza titled Yachts at Sea and some outstanding landscapes from the from the 1950s and 60s by the same artist. The show offers collectors and art lovers a rare opportunity to compare the style and techniques of founder members of the Progressive Artists' Group during an early stage in their careers. A range of works on paper will also be available in the exhibition and gives new collectors the opportunity to purchase works by some of the most respected artists of the Indian contemporary art scene.