The Madras Art Movement that emerged in the early 1960s was a late phenomenon of modernity in south India within the national context. It developed as a regional phenomenon that began to take shape from the mid-1950s onwards as a search for authenticity in modernism derived largely from the region’s cultural heritage.
The Government School of Arts and Crafts (now Government College of Fine Arts), established in 1850, became the locus for the emergence of this movement in the 1960s. The configuration of the art movement had been initiated under the tenure of D. P. Roy Chowdhury, its first Indian artist principal (1930-57), who laid emphasis on the development of a fine arts curriculum, put forth an empirical and perceptual approach to art making, and axed the colonial pedantry of human form study based on classical statuary.
These were considered sweeping innovations since the school’s curriculum had privileged craft teaching until Roy Chowdhury’s appointment as administrative head in 1930. These ideas were extended by K. C. S. Paniker, who, as the next administrative head, brought in a study of modern European masters. Paniker’s pedagogy opened avenues for technical and creative explorations that became a hallmark of the school, contributing towards the development of the art movement in Madras (now Chennai).
This groundbreaking exhibition takes a broad look at all aspects that shaped the movement and the artists’ individual vocabularies, adding another rich dimension to the multiverse of modern Indian art.