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Contemporary Art Prints In India - An Historical Overview
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Indian art forms ranging from the miniature paintings of Elora to the Rajput Paintings and from Mysore to Tanjore were unique and delicate. It took months for an Indian painting to come to its final form and shape. Art had not been commercialised and artists worked mainly under the auspices of the emperor or powerful clergymen. Many aristocrats themselves took over painting as a hobby.
Once the British set foot in India they brought with them modern technology, which had been developed in the west during the Industrial Revolution. Many British artists and painters migrated to India with the company in search of new subjects for painting such as Indian Architecture, religious ceremonies and the immense natural beauty and diversity. They had by the advent of the 19th century mastered the art of printings and art prints were very popular in England. The printed texts with easily reproducible detailed illustrations were produced through printing techniques. That was the emergence of art in its new form.
Development of Contemporary Art Prints in Bengal
As soon as they realised the immense potential of producing Art Prints in India, British Artists collaborated with native painters and artisans to produce the first contemporary art prints in India. These included William Baillie's 'Twelve Views of Calcutta & Fort William', Franz Balthazar Solvyn's `A Collection of 250 Coloured Etchings descriptive of “Manners, Customs and Dresses of the Hindus' and Robert Mabon's `Twenty Sketches Illustrative of Oriental Manners and Customs'. These collections were largely appreciated and critically acclaimed around the world.
The popularity of these art prints around the world brought acclaim to the engravers and printers of Bengal, but till the late 1850s most of these were British and other European migrants. It was difficult for them to sell these art prints in India without acknowledging the role of regional artists. These regional artists collaborated with Europeans during the printing and engraving processes and also suggested popular subjects. Giving them due credit for their work was a strong incentive for other painters, especially those from the Bengal School of Arts to take up Art Printing in India as a profession.
The Bengal School of Arts eventually produced some of the brilliant art printers and illustrators of the century which included the names of Sanat Kar, Debasis Chakraborty and Gautam Basu. This culture of art printing soon spread to different parts of the country and many art forms such as Mughal, Mysore and Mural Paintings were immortalised through the art prints that were produced in large numbers during the colonial era.
Today India is a leading hub and the contemporary modern art forms of the country are popularized across the globe through Art Prints.
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