75th anniversary of Progressive Artists Group


To commemorate the Diamond Jubilee (75th Anniversary) celebrations of the Progressive Artists Group (PAG), an exhibition of rare works reflecting the free spirit of the PAG’s original six iconic painters—who established the group in 1947—opened at Triveni Kala Sangam here today. Organised by The Raza Foundation in collaboration with Progressive Art Gallery and Triveni Kala Sangam, the exhibition—titled Luminous Legacy—will feature works from M F Husain, S H Raza, F N Souza, K H Ara, H A Gade and S K Bakre. The exhibition will continue until July 10.
“The PAG artists moved in many different directions. They were walkers, however, on ‘the road not taken’. From landscapes and cityscapes to inscapes, from color to concept, from narration to abstraction, from still life to vibrant active life, from emotions to ideas, the artists covered a wide range of life, reality and art. The show is a modest attempt to underline their continuing presence and relevance,” said Ashok Vajpeyi, Managing Trustee, Raza Foundation. He added: “No other group in the history of Modern Indian Art has produced such a huge galaxy of masters as did the PAG.”
Art historian, Dr Geeti Sen, who has conceptualized the exhibition, said: “Despite dramatic differences in their social backgrounds and temperament, they were building on this climate of thought to create a secular and ‘free’ India.” The group, initially called the Bombay Progressives, held its first exhibition in Baroda and then in Bombay on July 7, 1949. This exhibition caused “much furor in Bombay, controversy and comment.”
Sen added that, in the manifesto of the exhibition, Souza, the most articulate among the six, wrote that they (PAG) were not painting to revive any movement or school. “Raza wrote ‘we paint with absolute freedom for content and technique…we have no pretension of making vapid revivals of any school or movement in art’”, she said.
On display will be untitled works by iconic painters from the 1940s, 1950s, and later decades. Some of them include paintings from Husain’s famous series, like the Horses Series, MadhuriSeries, and Toy Series. Raza’s portraits and the famous Gol Gumbaz painting, a depiction of a French village, besides many untitled works will also be on display. Further, Souza’s early paintings depicting the rural lives of Goan people, Bakre’s ‘Sunny Day in London’ and other works will be on display. Ara’s rendition of life in India, including an untitled work depicting dancing women dressed in yellow, green, red and blue, will be displayed alongside Gade’s untitled works depicting urban life, which are ‘not dull imitations’ of the subject. Created using different media, including oil, watercolour, ink and gouache on board, paper, canvas, jute, masonite board, oil and ink on paper, watercolour on paper, pencil on paper, the paintings showcase not only the wide range of the six masters, but also their steadfastness to craft a modern language of art in India, even as they came from diverse backgrounds.
The exhibition also marks the 25th Anniversary of the Progressive Art Gallery, which draws its name from the group formed by the original six. “Their artistic prowess and contributions to the Indian art scene have left an indelible mark on the cultural landscape of our nation and beyond. This exhibition will not only be a tribute to their genius but also a testament to the enduring power of art to transcend boundaries and captivate our hearts,” said Harsh Vardhan Singh, Director, Progressive Art Gallery.