This volume brings together 19 seminal essays on India's visual culture and its leading manifestations during the period 1857-2007. It traces the shifting role of the artist and art institution through cataclysmic changes in India's history. The early essays cover the age of empire, which saw the advent of mechanical reproduction and the setting up of British art academies that permanently changed the Indian Karkhana style of work. British museums established in the colonial period defined attitudes towards material culture for the next hundred years. India's avid interest in photography since the 1850s, the subject of much recent scholarship, marked the rise of popular arts in studio practice. Even as Indians embraced photography, the colonial photo-document determined the nineteenth-century archaeological and anthropological view of India.
With the rise of nationalism, the making of Indian art institutions and an Indian art consciousness allowed an indigenous modernity to be carefully determined by artists and ideologues. Various aspects of Indian modernity came to be defined during the charged early decades of the twentieth century, including the streams of nationalist art and an international modernism. During the period of the 1960s to the 1980s, Indian art emerged through frequently hard-fought debates around the role of the state and indigenist values and symbols in art practice. In the later essays of the book, the recent alliance with global art strategies in the decades since the 1980s is analyzed. At the same time, the shift in popular taste and aesthetics influenced by Indian politics and the rise of religious patronage in analyzed as a contemporary phenomenon.
With contributions by the foremost art writers, critics, and curators, this volume seeks to contextualize Indian art within the dynamic shifts of Indian social history. Over 200 lustrations provide a selective panorama of the visual arts in the last 150 years.