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5 Famous Indian Masterpieces that Every Indian Must Know

Indian painting has a long tradition and history. The earliest paintings were the rock paintings of pre-historic times such as the petroglyphs found in places like Bhimbetka rock caves. The age of those rock paintings is approximately 30,000 years old!

Indian paintings provides an aesthetic continuum that extends from the early civilization to the present day. From being religious in purpose in the beginning, Indian painting has evolved over the years to become a fusion of various cultures,traditions and ideas.

In the last hundred years or so, Indian artists have created some magnificent works of art that have the taken the world by storm. Here are 5 of the most famous Indian paintings.

1. Abanindranath Tagore’s Bharat Mata

Bharat Mata, painted by the Bengali artist Abanindranath Tagore in 1905, depicts Bharat Mata or Mother India, in the form of a Hindu Goddess. The painting was the first illustrated depiction of the concept and was painted when the Swadeshi movement was at its peak during the Indian Independence movement

2. Self-portrait by Amrita Sher-Gil

Amrita Sher-Gil was an eminent Hungarian-Indian painter. She has been called "one of the greatest avant-garde women artists of the early 20th century" and a "pioneer" in modern Indian art. From 1930 onwards, Amrita Sher-Gil painted a series of self- portraits representing her moods. She captured the seductive and exuberant mood, which is relatively rare in her series of self-portraits.

3. Three Pujarins by Jamini Roy

Jamini Roy is considered to be one of the most eminent early modernists of Indian art. He experimented with vibrant colors and developed a unique style that resulted in artworks that were a visual feast. This is one of his masterpieces. It depicts the three almond-eyed priestesses. It was inspired by the Kalighat art, which is the folk art tradition of Bengal.

4. Shakuntala by Raja Ravi Verma

Shakuntala is one of the epic paintings in Indian art history. Raja Ravi Varma depicts Shakuntala as an important character in the Indian epic, Mahabharata, where she pretends to remove a thorn from her foot while furtively looking for her lover, Dushyantha and her friends tease her for bluffing the act.

Art historian Tapati Guha Thakurta describes the Shakuntala painting as, “this very gesture – the twist and turn of head and body – draws the viewer into the narrative, inviting one to place this scene within an imagined sequence of images and events. On its own, the painting stands like a frozen tableau (like a still from a moving film), plucked out of an on-running spectacle of episodes.”

5. Bapuji by Nandalal Bose

Bapu (Mahatma Gandhi) was a muse for many artists in India and abroad. The legendary Nandalal Bose, an artist of Shantiniketan, said that Bapu was an inspiration for all artists. The famous linocut portrait of the Mahatma, titled ‘Dandi March’, was created in 1930. It intensely reflects his respect for Gandhi and is on permanent display at the National Gallery of Modern Art in Delhi.

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