Famed for its art and architecture, the Mughal era was coming to an end in the 19th century and the French and Portuguese had established their trading outposts, giving a fillip to artists and creating a new era in Bengal art.
It was during this period that Bengal art underwent a transformation with traders commissioning local artists from Chinsurah, Chandarnagar and Serampore to create portraits and landscape paintings influenced by European art.
A new exhibition, "Swadeshi Art", in Delhi's Akar Prakar Gallery relives this part of history, showcasing a rare collection of oil paintings, lithographs and oleographs from the 19th century.
"These paintings and prints, of the mid to late 19th century, came before Raja Ravi Verma's oleographs, which would be seen almost all over the country from 1894 onwards when his press was established in Ghatkopar Mumbai," said Ashit Paul, curator of the show.
Some of the works, also called 'Dutch Bengal' or 'French Bengal', depict perspectives, figures, and landscapes in oil and water colours following the European method.
Many portraits and religious paintings were personal projects for the European colonisers who were followed by the British.
The exhibition includes works of famous artists such as Annadaprasad Bagchi (1849-1905), Shyamacharan Shrimani, Nabakumar Bishwas (1861-1935), Phanibhushan Sen, Krishnachandra Pal, Yogendranath Mukhopadhyay, Bamapada Bandyopadhyay (1851-1932), Shashikumar Hem, Bhabanicharan Laha (1880-1946).
The show is also showcasing the famous 'Pat paintings' of Kalighat in Calcutta, which portray issues as diverse as mythology, social scandals and satire.
"Most of the time there is no mention of the artist and the period, but these paintings help develop an idea of the nature of the work of the artists and the era of these paintings," said Reena Lath, director of the Akar Prakar Gallery.
Also on display at the exhibition are paintings of Bamapada Bandyopadhyay which were printed in 'oleograph' from Germany and captured the markets of Calcutta.
The exhibition is set to continue till October 15 at Akar Prakar Gallery here.
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