The Progressive Artists Group (PAG) was formed in 1947 as an objection to the Bombay Art Society which had dismissed the works of Francis Newton Souza as amateur and rejected K.H. Ara's painting 'Independence Day Procession'. The two of them along with the artist H.A. Gade started a group and they each brought another artist to the fold. Souza brought M.F. Husain while Ara and Gade brought S.K. Bakre and S.H. Raza respectively. The group began to exhibit their works at the King's Circle to a wider audience.
"What we had in common besides our youth and lack of means was that we hoped for a better understanding of art. We had a sense of searching and we fought the material world. There was at aour meetings and discussions a great fraternal feeling, a certain warmth and a lively exchange of ideas. We criticized each other's work as surely as we eulogised about it. This was a time when there was no modern art in our country and a period of artistic confusion. We were particularly torn between western academic ideas and traditonal Indian art springing from Renaissance. The works of the French Impressionists and the German Expressionists inspired us and we were particularly indebted to Irving Stone's book Lust for Life, on Van Gogh's life." Raza.
The Progressive Artists rejected what they considered the revivalistic methods of the Bengal school. At the same time they opposed the academic styles taught at the schools set up by the British.
With a strong thrust towards modernism, Souza declared in the catalogue of their first exhibition,
"Today we paint with absolute freedom for content and technique, almost anarchic, save that we are governed by one or two sound elemental and eternal laws, of aesthetic order, plastic co-ordination and colour composition."
Theirs was a youthful expressive and colourful style that broke down boundaries and really instigated the age of Modern Indian Art.
Much of the energy of the Progressive Artists' Group was depleted when its founder Souza left for London and Raza for Paris soon after, though the Group itself dissolved in the mid-fifties. By this time artist who had similar affinities like Krishen Khanna and V. S. Gaitonde had been inducted among others. Akbar Padamsee, Tyeb Mehta and Ram Kumar were close associates and together these artists in their stylistic preoccupations were to make a strong thrust towards modernism.
This exhibition has some important works by the above artists although not all from the Progressive period.