Post-Colonialism in Art in India

Gaurav Gandhi
3 min readAug 22, 2023
Nalini Malani, The Rebellion of the Dead, 2017 (Wikipedia)
Nalini Malani, The Rebellion of the Dead, 2017 (Wikipedia)

Imagine, if you will, a canvas that’s blank. It’s like the calm before a storm, right? Now, fill that canvas with colors, emotions, and stories of a nation that just broke free from the shackles of colonial rule. That’s post-colonial Indian art for you. Bursting with life, vibrancy, and a touch of rebellion

The Birth of a New Era

You know that feeling when you wake up, and the world seems different? That’s what 1947 felt like for India. It wasn’t just about political freedom; it was about artistic freedom too. Artists were like kids in a candy store, eager to experiment and redefine what Indian art meant.

The Progressive Artists’ Group: The Cool Kids of Art

Bombay Progressive Artists Group, 1947
Bombay Progressive Artists Group, 1947 (Wikipedia)

Speaking of redefining art, have you heard of the Progressive Artists’ Group? Think of them as the Beatles of the Indian art world. Artists like M.F. Husain and F.N. Souza, they weren’t just painting; they were making statements. Bold, unapologetic, and sometimes even a tad controversial.

When Old Meets New

Pseudorealistic Indian painting. Couple, Kids and Confusion. by Devajyoti Ray.
Pseudorealistic Indian painting. Couple, Kids and Confusion. by Devajyoti Ray.

Now that we’re talking about art, let’s not overlook India’s extensive artistic tradition. It’s similar to that sentimental family treasure you refuse to give up. A lot of post-colonial artists, including the well-known Jamini Roy, honored ancient art styles while giving them a contemporary spin. It’s similar to remixing a piece of old music to maintain the spirit yet update it for a modern audience.

Art with a Message

Street art in front of Jamia Milia Islamia campus during the anti-CAA protests. Image courtesy of Vice.
Street art in front of Jamia Milia Islamia campus during the anti-CAA protests. Image courtesy of Vice

You know, art isn’t only about attractive pictures. It identifies problems, shares stories, and occasionally, it is a call for change. The post-colonial era was not without its difficulties, and artists weren’t afraid to discuss them. The canvas was used as a stage for social commentary on everything from politics to caste.

Women in the Frame

Malani’s installation In Search of Vanished Blood at the Edinburgh Art Festival in 2014

Oh, and before I forget, let’s recognize the outstanding female artists of this time. Artists like Nalini Malani did more than just create art; they paved the way for later generations by defying expectations and shattering stereotypes.

There you have it, then. A quick tour of Indian post-colonial art. It’s more than just art; it’s a window into the soul and difficulties and victories of a country. We’ve just scratched the surface, but maybe this has given you an idea of the rich tapestry that is Indian art.

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Gaurav Gandhi

10+ yrs exp. in software dev. Highly versatile and adaptable, learns new tech quickly to deliver top-notch results.