The ancient literature of Hinduism and Buddhism in India contains many references to palaces and other structures adorned with paintings (chitra), which reflect the rich artistic culture of the time. However, due to the fragility of the medium and the ravages of time, very few examples of these paintings have survived to the present day. One of the most remarkable and well-preserved sites of ancient Indian painting is the Ajanta Caves, a series of rock-cut Buddhist monuments dating from the 2nd century BCE to the 6th century CE. These paintings depict scenes from the life of the Buddha, as well as various Jataka tales and other legends. Apart from mural paintings, smaller scale paintings on manuscripts were also likely to have been produced in this period, but the earliest surviving specimens are from the medieval period. A major transformation in Indian painting occurred in the Mughal era (16th-19th centuries), when a new style emerged as a result of blending the Persian miniature tradition with older Indian traditions. This style was widely adopted and adapted by various Indian princely courts of different religions, each developing their own distinctive local variations. During the British colonial rule, another genre of painting known as Company painting emerged, which catered to the tastes and demands of British patrons and officials. These paintings often depicted scenes of Indian life, culture, flora and fauna in a realistic manner. The British also established art schools in India based on Western models, which influenced the development of modern Indian painting in the 19th and 20th centuries. However, many modern Indian painters have also sought to revive and reinterpret their Indian heritage in their works.
One of the most influential and celebrated modern Indian painters was Raja Ravi Varma (1848-1906), who was trained in the European academic style and used oil paints and canvas to create realistic portraits and scenes from Indian mythology and history. His paintings popularized a new image of Hindu gods and goddesses, which was widely disseminated through prints and calendars. He also founded a lithographic press in Bombay, which enabled the mass production and distribution of his works. Ravi Varma's style had a lasting impact on Indian painting and cinema, as well as on the nationalist movement.
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In the early 20th century, a group of artists known as the Bengal School of Art emerged, who rejected the Western academic style and sought to revive the indigenous traditions of Indian painting, such as the Mughal and Rajput miniatures, as well as the folk and tribal arts. The leader of this group was Abanindranath Tagore (1871-1951), a nephew of the poet Rabindranath Tagore. He was influenced by Japanese art and aesthetics, and developed a style that blended elements of Indian and Oriental art. His paintings often depicted themes from Indian literature, religion and history, using subtle colors and delicate brushwork. He also mentored many young artists, such as Nandalal Bose (1882-1966), who became famous for his paintings of Mahatma Gandhi and other national leaders.
Another important movement in modern Indian painting was the Progressive Artists' Group, which was founded in Bombay in 1947 by six artists: Francis Newton Souza (1924-2002), Syed Haider Raza (1922-2016), Maqbool Fida Husain (1915-2011), Sadanand Bakre (1920-2007), Krishnaji Howlaji Ara (1914-1985) and Hari Ambadas Gade (1917-2001). They were influenced by various Western modernist movements, such as Cubism, Expressionism and Abstract Art, and experimented with new forms and techniques to express their individual visions. They also addressed social and political issues in their works, such as poverty, violence, sexuality and identity. They challenged the conservative norms of Indian art and society, and paved the way for many contemporary Indian artists. 29c81ba772