Past Forward

January 13, 2009

Indian landscapes by Western Artists

Over the last weekend, I thought I should get some culture. But instead of all those New Agey painters that may be too highbrow for me, I thought I’d take in something that’s a bit more accessible. So, I traipsed into the domed CSMVS, as those in the know now call the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya to check out their latest exhibit.

Indian Life and Landscape

Indian Life and Landscape by Western Artists is an exhibition of paintings and drawings by European artists from the 17th to the early 20th century, culled from the collection from London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. As I walked around the gallery, I was transported into a different world. This was an India that was exciting even as it was familiar. The past connected to the present via an urban landscape that was still so recognisable. I thought the Mumbai street scene was fabulous in its detail and execution; so true-to-life that it could be a digi-pic snapped only moments ago!

One section showcased paintings by people who had never visited the country but drew from their imagination, based on travellers’ descriptions. I was especially entranced by The Four Sons of Shah Jahan, an oil painting by 17th century Dutch artist Willem Schellinks, which resembled a Mughal miniature in style and detail. Another segment introduced me to the ‘picturesque’ style of painting, where buildings and landscapes are aesthetically composed to look as pretty as possible. Totally, there were around 100 works that characterised the architecture, landscape, people and everyday life of India.

I came away enriched. And I have the ‘been there, done that’ take-home treats from the gift shop — illustrated coasters and a print of Marine Drive in its early years — to display on my coffee table to prove it.

Indian Life and Landscape by Western Artists: On till February 8th at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (Prince of Wales Museum), SP Mukherji Chowk, Kala Ghoda, Mumbai: Tel 22844484/22844519; Cost: Regular museum entrance charges to enter, while memorabilia starts at Rs 40.

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