M. F. Husain, Peasant Couple, 1950, oil on canvas.
Just over seven decades after the declaration of India's independence in 1947 and the emergence of a modern art movement in India, Asia Society presents a landmark exhibition of works by members of the Progressive Artists' Group, which formed in Bombay, now Mumbai, in the aftermath of independence. The Progressive Revolution: Modern Art for a New India will examine the founding ideology of the Progressives and explore the ways in which artists from different social, cultural, and religious backgrounds found common cause at a time of massive political and social upheaval.
Though the group disbanded in 1956, the movement continued to animate and give visual expression to India's modern identity, with many of the group's artists creating their most iconic works after this period. Works in the exhibition — primarily oil paintings from the 1940s to 1960s — underscore how these artists gave visual form to the idea of India as secular, heterogeneous, international, and united. Like their counterparts in the West, India's modern masters mined multiple sources of inspiration while forging their own distinctive styles. Their consideration of the ways in which a new secular republic could emerge from a rich, multi-religious tradition continues to be relevant today.
The exhibition comprises important works from the Group's core founders—K. H. Ara, S. K. Bakre, H. A. Gade, M. F. Husain, S. H. Raza, and F. N. Souza — as well as later members and those closely affiliated with the movement: V. S. Gaitonde, Krishen Khanna, Ram Kumar, Tyeb Mehta, Akbar Padamsee, and Mohan Samant.
(Courtesy of Asia Society Museum and Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)