As a struggling young artist, SH Raza won some early acclaim with a 100-rupee prize from the Bombay Art Society. A young Amrita Sher-Gil won a gold medal in the BAS annual competition too. VS Gaitonde never won gold, only silver.
The BAS was set up in 1888 — 120 years ago — to encourage amateur artists and give them a platform. And so successful was it in this mission that the artists it nurtured are still some of the highest-selling, most valued painters in modern Indian history.
One of their main platforms was that annual competition. And starting tomorrow, over 200 BAS award-winning works are going on display at the National Gallery of Modern Art in Mumbai, to celebrate this history.
“The exhibition traces the history of the Bombay School of Art and of India’s art world,” says Suhas Bahulkar, curator of the exhibition. “From very early works on mythology to recording kings’ and queens’ lives, to progressing to recording the everyday lives of commoners and eventually to commenting on contemporary issues, the Indian art scene has only grown over the years.”
Many of the works on display are rarely shown. “Indeed, some of the older ones have never been in public viewings before,” says Bahulkar.
Here’s a look at what you can expect:
Amrita Sher-Gil’s Group of Young Girls, the painting that won her Rs 125 as a gold medal prize, in the 1930s. She would have been in her 20s at the time.
GM Hazarnis’s Winter in Nainital, which won the Governor’s Prize of Rs 250 in 1953. He became best-known for his post-Impressionistic snowscapes.
Bombay View by SH Raza won gold in 1948, which came with Rs 100 in prize money. He was in his mid-20s then. A later work, Saurashtra, recently fetched Rs 16.42 crore at a Christie’s auction in London.
Raja Ravi Varma’s Damyanti was one of the paintings showcased at the Bombay Art Society’s first-ever exhibition, in 1989.
Mohamedan Pilgrim, for which SL Haldankar won gold in 1925.