New Delhi, India
December 30, 2006
At the entrance, next to the ticket counter (tickets are Rs 150 each), is a shop that sells somewhat grubby prints. We continued, past a circular atrium featuring a group sculpture of metal figures, into the first gallery. This one, like most others, contained a mishmash of styles and artists. There were delicate paintings in the Company style, of peasants and artisans; vivid images of the snowcapped Himalayas by the Russian Nikolai Roerich; and exquisite miniatures, perfect in every detail, of Buddhist monasteries and mendicants, by B Sen. There was an amazing painting (At Rest) of a man reading a newspaper, by Pestonjee Eruchshaw Bomanjee; an 18th century watercolour depicting the fort at Chunargarh, by William Hodges; and a photograph of a Maharaja by the famous Indian photographer Lala Deen Dayal.
From here, we turned left into a gallery of 21st century art. The works here, almost universally show Western influences - as in Sachin Karne’s boldly erotic painting of black-and-white lovers entwined within the outline of a plane etched onto a red-and-black reproduction of part of Rembrandt’s The Night Watch. My favourites here, however, were two large paintings by Chintan Upadhaya. Both were in solid, bright backgrounds, one with a human face outlined, the other with a dancing figure - and the outline filled in with traditional Rajasthani painting. Visually unforgettable!
The heavyweights of Indian art are represented in the gallery on the right of the first gallery. Here are the soft, distinctly Oriental watercolours of Nandalal Bose, the impressionist paintings of D P Roy Chowdhury, and the works of the brothers Abanindranath and Gaganendranath Tagore (other works by them, along with some drawings by their uncle, Rabindranath, are on the first floor). And there’s an entire gallery dedicated to the diva of modern Indian art, Amrita Sher-Gil (1913-41). The Indo-Hungarian Sher-Gil was influenced by Gauguin and Cezanne, and her paintings -of Indian and Western subjects- are awesome (her sensual Self-Portrait and the delightful Two Elephants are both part of the Gallery’s collection).
Upstairs, on the first floor, are more paintings- a gallery of Sher-Gil (which we couldn’t see; an art class was using the room to sketch a nearly-nude male); some stunning works by Antonio Xaviour Trindade -his The Pan-Patti Shop is a masterpiece of light and shade- and a room of Jamini Roy’s works. Roy is another of my favourites. His style, which was influenced by Bengali peasant art, consists of sweeping curves, solid colours, and stunning figures characterized by huge, almond-shaped eyes. Among the most fascinating works here are Bengali Woman (a face, with hauntingly beautiful eyes, looking out above a billowing white sari); and Three Pujarins- three priestesses, clad in blue saris.
All in all, very satisfying two hours - money well spent! The gallery’s open Tuesday through Sunday, from 10am to 5pm.
From journal The Museums of Delhi