Sunday, October 6, 2013

World Perspective Of Indian Art

mughal painting

Most of what we know of art belongs to the past, and yet in art there is an element, which indissolubly links the past with the future. Art, whether it is sculpture, painting, architecture or industrial objects, emerges as a conscious or unconscious means of expression, however, imperfectly, from human dreams and myths that embody the people’s style of living, their circumstances, their achievements of which they are proud, what which they feel is their driving and regulating force, and what they hope for.

Expression of Unconscious

The history of art can be interpreted as an optical aspect of the history of mankind and, in the widest sense, in so far as the optical interpretation can be extended to philosophy and musicology, and, combined with other sources, to all aspects of human life, to society, economics, the state; and often in an invaluable manner, as art expresses much of the conscious mind so that the observer discovers much which was not intended to be said, even that which people did not dare to acknowledge to themselves.

jamini roy religious painting

We are passing through a period when our lives are totally influenced by the discoveries of modern science. It is from this angle that I wish to approach Indian history, using the history of art as a lever, because archaeology often offers us evidence where literature, as a conscious source, has wiped out the memory, for reasons which, historically, are likewise understandable.

Read more about ancient India Art

Khajuraho Story

Art Styles

Early in this country the unit of art analysis was style, in other words technical achievement. In the case of architecture, the transition was first from wood to clay, then to mortar, stone, concrete and iron.

Through conquests or religious missions certain styles may spread afar, though a mere occupation of some political, commercial or intellectual centers may not completely change the style as, in the surrounding minor towns and villages, archaic forms of the same art, or remnants of the former which may be totally different, may continue to survive. This is partly due to the growth of towns and cities in which a new mentality develops because the life experience of the upper classes sets the models.

There are immigrant artists, missionaries or officials who might feel that for success they should make concessions to the public mentality, as in the Akota bronzes and many Rajput and Mughal paintings. They then may adapt their work to the local taste. The end product is the extension of such a style, as rich and involved as possible, over a rather vast area but consisting of nor more than individual inspired masterpieces while only conventional forms almost fall asunder under the impact of innumerable details, for example, in Vaghela or Hoysala sculpture.

Divine Origin

The art theory of ancient India, as laid down in Sanskrit literature, is quite different. Art, like all aspects of human life, especially religion, is regarded as revealed by the gods to the rishis, first transmitted orally, but at last written down in the Vastu, Silpa or Natya Sastras.

However, all these, in the first place, do not deal with the “how” or the style of art but with the “what” or the content of art. What they describe is mainly the Hindu temple and its decoration, sculptures and paintings, such as we know it from the Gupta times to the Muslim conquest and later wherever Hindu art could again reassert itself.

Indo-Islamic Art

Since Alexander the Great, India had entered the wider sphere of Hellenism, not that of Hellenism proper, when Greek art gradually superseded the earlier indigenous ones but gave it a new dimension of life, especially of trade, connecting all the countries and people from the Mediterranean up to China.

In contrast to the Huna-Gurjara invasion, Muslim conquest of the 11th-16th centuries was never fully assimilated. Seen in the south-west Asian perspective the Ghuzz, Saljuq and Mongol inroads were just part of an immigration which had already transformed the Caliphate from an Arab state, taking over and absorbing the surviving cultural traditions of the late Roman Empire under the Omayyads of Damascus, into a Turkish state under the Abbasids of Baghdad and Samarra.

In this context, however, the conquest of India was no more than a lateral movement of the general trend.
Thus, Islamic art in India assumed a special Indian color but, nevertheless, was not completely absorbed into the traditional Indian art. In fact, it became a positive factor by opening, again and again, the way to new ideas and aspirations from all over the Islamic world.

Read more about Indian Contemporary Art

Contemporary Indian Art

Classicism in Orient and Occident

It has been said that there is a relationship between the medieval cathedrals of India and those of the Occident. It seems that this had been due mainly to a parallel course of ideas under rather similar circumstances – the cathedral, both as a world-model and as model of the Mahapurusha. But beyond this, there is also a considerable difference. The cathedral resembles much more the Chaitya hall of the Buddhists.
The main difficulty was that during the Middle Ages India and Europe were separated by the Islamic World. Until the time of the discovery of the sea route around Africa, direct contacts were few, and these also mainly at the time of the Crusades.

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  • masterymistery says:
    October 7, 2013 at 12:15 PM

    Excellent, comprehensive and fascinating exploration. Thank you very much.

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