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GALLOPING THROUGH THE WINDS OF ARTISTIC CHANGE: HORSE IMAGERY IN MODERN INDIAN ART
By LA POLO
Jun 29, 2022
Pakshiraaj Ghoda by Gaganendranath Tagore, Circa 1920, Watercolour and brush and ink on handmade paper, 13.5 x 10.2 in.
In India also, equine and equestrian imagery galloped through the winds of change and was featured in creations by revered icons of Modern Indian Art. In a work titled ‘Pakshiraaj Ghoda,’ Gaganendranath Tagore invokes the purely equestrian image of a traveller on a horse. Created Circa 1920, this work belongs to a phase when the artist executed most of his works with black ink (SUMI-E). As opposed to realism, his works from this period were conjured on the basis of imagination.
Jamini Roy was another artist from the generation whose oeuvre frequently featured horses. Highly influenced by the folk traditions of India and especially Bengal, he painted horses that were inspired by terracotta horse sculpture from his native region of Bankura. One of such works is a creation from Circa 1950. Complementing the minimalist form with the vibrant red background and presence of other traditionally bold colours like green and yellow, the artist has perfectly captured the essence of the horse as a traditional motif in Indian art.
As a new liberated era dawned on the country in 1947, there was also a tectonic shift in the landscape of Indian art. Coming together with other rebellious artists of the time, F. N. Souza founded the Bombay Progressive Artists' Group. They were inspired by the unique visual idioms of western movements such as Cubism, Expressionism, and Surrealism, and sought to give a brand new modernist identity to Indian art. Through the adopted modern approach of the artists from this generation, the horse motif continued to find new visual reinterpretation.