Not only are paintings by Indian masters considered to be an essential part of cultural portfolios of the crème de la crème, but they have also proved to be sound investments. Here are some of the most prominent names in the business.
Maqbool Fida Hussain
MF Hussain, or ‘Picasso of India’ is the most renowned and influential of Indian modernist painters. He has defied conventions; being both prolific and valuable. He is famous for use of the cubist technique, and the themes rage from historical figures like Gandhi to mythologies and ancient epics. He is credited with 6 lakh paintings. His most famous paintings are of nude figures of Hindu goddesses, and his trademark features are women and horses. He was a controversial figure, and was forced to live in exile until his death in 2011.
Syed Haider Raza
SH Raza is one of the top selling and most valuable Indian artists. His paintings are known for their vivid use of colour, and are steeped in Indian ethnography and philosophy. He favours acrylic and oil, and triangles, licks of flame and blue moons are common motifs. Having famously undergone an ‘artistic rebirth’ in the 1980s called the ‘Bindu’, Raza went on to paint masterpieces like La Terre and Saurashtra~ the latter being the most expensive Indian painting, being sold for more than Rs16 crores in 2010.
Along with Raza and Hussain, Tyeb Mehta comprised the most famous trio of the Bombay Progressive artists. He is regarded to have heralded the Indian art boom in the international scene, with Celebration that sold for Rs1.5 crore at Christie’s in London in 2002. He is famous for his other triptychs, which is a painting in three parts, his Diagonal Series, Falling Figures and Hindu figures like Kali and Durga. His Figure on a Rickshaw is the second most expensive Indian painting to be sold for Rs14 crore. He died in 2009.
Francis Newton Souza
The founder of the Bombay Progressive art movement, FN Souza is regarded as the first crossover painter. His style was intensely expressionistic, and his works often depict the dark side of human society. His paintings give the sense of a disturbing, impending sense of doom. His Birth sold for Rs11.3 crores at Christie’s, setting a record at that time. After his death in 2002, more than 140 pictures were sold by Christie’s.
The most famous contemporary Indian women painter, Arpita Singh’s paintings depict common Indian women going about their daily lives. Arpita is regarded as the most important woman painter in India after Amrita Sher-Gil, who was known as India’s Frieda Kahlo. Arpita imbibes elements from Bengali folk art. Her paintings are characterized with strong, vivid hues with pink, yellow and blue being her signature colours. Her paintings are regarded to be part of the miniaturist tradition. She has been widely awarded, and her Wish Dreams sold for Rs9.5 crores in 2010.
Vasudeo S Gaintode
He was the most famous exponent of abstract art in India. His paintings have been widely exhibited across the world, and his work is rated among the finest, even though he was not prolific. His compositions show a wide range of experiments with form and colour, and have a dynamic but silent spirit. His use of shading made his paintings look deep, and reflected his private, meditative nature. In 2006, one of his paintings fetched Rs 6.5 crore at Christie’s.
Probably the most famous exponent of the Bengal School, Ganesh Pyne’s paintings are somber and stark, and often deal with death and decay. The religious riots and the Naxal crackdown that he witnessed in the city had a tremendous influence on him. His paintings are characterized by light backgrounds with sharp, menacing images at the front. Blue and black are his favourite colors. His famous paintings are Before the Chariot and The Assassin. His influence has been seminal on the contemporaries.
Subodh Gupta is the most famous among contemporaries, and he uses installation, sculpture, painting, video and photography in his creations. He is famous for using common objects like utensils, milk pails and bicycles, and has been called ‘Damient Hirst of Delhi’. While the materials he uses are strictly Indian, his aesthetic has a global appeal. He has also collaborated with international artists for shows and exhibitions. His creations have been sold at more than Rs3.5 crore.
Among the contemporary artists, Chitra Ganesh has managed to create a niche for herself with her unique, comic-book style. Influenced by mythologies, imperialism and queer politics, Chitra experiments with a wide range of media like drawings, digital collages, murals and installations and her work shows elements of surrealism. Female sexuality and racial power relations are the most prominent themes. Her work has been widely exhibited.
Jitish Khallat is known for his obsessive use of self-portraits in his creations. His style is thus intensely personal, but also has an abstract narrative. He uses images from print media, photocopies of other materials and texts. Khallat’s paintings often look like puzzles because they have several materials juxtaposed against each other. His paintings depict that art imbibes countless influences from others. His paintings have been widely exhibited across the world.