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Group 1890

In 1962, a group of artists came together in New Delhi with the aim of getting artists to 'see phenomena in their virginal state.' Styling themselves Group 1890 (actually only the number of a friend's house!), the artists once again renewed the century-long discussion on artistic influence on Indian art. It seems Indian artists must not look either to 'memories of a glorious past' nor try to 'catch up with the times' to create a context-relevant art. They must begin on a clean slate, start from degree zero, so to say.

The main spirit behind the group was Jagdish Swaminathan, an artist and critic with a leftist orientation. In a passionate manifesto, the group declared that they 'reject the vulgar naturalism of Raja Ravi Varma and the pastoral idealism of the Bengal School, down through the hybrid mannerisms resulting from the imposition of concepts evolved by successive movements in modern European art.'

In Swaminathan's paintings of this phase, one may see this attempt to catch the pure, uninfluenced state of expression in the form of the human spirit's attempt to rise out of the dross and dirt in which it finds itself moored. These were pictorially represented on a brightly-coloured landscape from which a bird-shape attempted to fly.

The group held their first and only exhibition in 1963. Among the artists who displayed their work were the initiator himself, Swaminathan, and Jeram Patel, Himmat Shah, Rajesh Mehra, S.G. Nikam, Redeppa Naidu, Balkrishna Patel, Jyoti Bhatt, Ambadas, Eric Bowen, Raghav Kanneria and Ghulam Mohammed Sheikh.

Some of these artists would later be involved in other artistic groupings and have much to contribute to the fashioning of Indian contemporary art as it is today. Other artists whose work would allude to the tendencies delineated by this group include Laxma Goud, Manjit Bawa and Mrinalini Mukherjee.

(See Profiles of individual artists for more information)

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