Modern Indian Art Series: The Art Movements from the 60s to 80s

Dividing the development of art into definite categories or decades is almost an impossible job. As most would agree, each style and development slowly transients into the next and thus, carries forward certain styles and approaches that makes this differentiation difficult.

The development of Indian art post-independence happened in three intermittent phases; the first one starting from the Independence of India till the mid-50s, the second wave from the mid-50s to mid-80s and the third from the mid-80s to the present. In our previous blog of Modern Indian Art Series, we discussed The Progressive Artist Group that emerged just after Independence and brought a fresh approach to Indian art. After they disbanded, from the mid-50s through the mid-80s, Indian art took a more localised turn with artists emerging from different art schools all over the nation.


Modern Indian Art of the late 1950s


In the late 50s and the 60s came the second wave of the post-independence art movement in India which extended till the mid-80s. The development of art during this era was predominantly based on the abstract styles of painting, pop art and neo-dadaism, deepening the modernistic aspects of the works.

One of the most influential groups during the late 50s were artists emerging from the Fine Arts department of M. S. University, Baroda. Prominent artists like Shankho Chaudhuri, N.S. Bendre, Nasreen Mohamedi, Gulam Mohammad Sheikh, Bhupen Khakkar, Jeram Patel and K. G. Subhramanyan. These artists continued to practice in the style which can simply be described as a fusion between Indian elements and European styles, creating a unique approach to Modern Indian Art.


Modern Indian Art of the late 1960s


The 1960s saw a return to Indian style from the hybrid mannerisms practised in the previous era. During this decade, Group 1890 led by J. Swaminathan rejected the fusion between the European and Indian art forms and created art influenced by purely Indian style and approach. Similar movements could be seen in the Cholamandalam artist’s village where they distilled an Indian idiom using techniques that were predominantly used in the rural handicraft textile design traditions.

The formation of the Cholamndalam artists’ community established by KCS Panikar brought forth a new style of art. The rural South Indian kavacha and kreeta traditions of beaten sheet metal and tribal dokhra style of metal casting became popular mediums of art for artists like Meera Mukherjee and Swaminathan. Some artists came to be influenced by Tantric art and its geometric patterns which resulted in a new form of abstract art. Artists like Biren De, Shanker Palsiker and G. R. Santosh were leading artists of this genre.

Bengal too was not behind. The Shantiniketan philosophy of art was popularised by Prof. K. G. Subhramanyan. He married traditional Indian elements with his unique modernist sensibilities to create a new style of art. Artists like Ganesh Pyne, focused on the heritage and traditions of Kolkata to bring forth their personal style of art.

Other popular artists were Bhupen Khakhar, Jyoti Bhatt, Laxma Goud and Neelima Sheikh. Jogen Chowdhury, one of the most recognized artists of this era also went through a significant change in his style of art and evolved to resonate more with the local traditions. Visit Zeoline Art Gallery for modern indian art by this artist.


Modern Indian Art of the late 1970s to mid-1980s


The 1970s saw the emergence of famous artists like Prabhakar Barwe, K. Khosa, Madhvi Parekh, Gogi Saroj Pal, Ambalal and Dharmanarayan Dasgupta along with the artists of the 60s like Jogen Chowdhury and Ganesh Pyne. The art of this era took a turn towards magic realism where the mundane is transformed magically. By representing fear and anxieties in terms of fantasy, locating the mythic in a world of memory, they give their artworks a dream-like intensity.

The art of this era also saw the emergence of the metaphysical with Bombay-based Prabhakar Barwe and K. Khosa. Artists incorporated tribal and folk elements to represent their idea of reality and fantasy. Jogen Chowdhury brought his personal erotic fantasies and Pyne brought his personal mythology enriching the art forms of this era. This tradition continued until the middle of the 1980s. Read more about this in our next blog on Modern Indian Art.


Zeoline Art Gallery, one of the leading modern art galleries, showcases select works by some of the prominent artists of this group, and much more.

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