Flying Horses, Sleepy Tigers and Colossal Crows: Objects of Admiration and Allegory

Explore this virtual exhibition highlighting some of the creatures that reside in the diverse modern Indian Art collection at the Kerala Museum

By Kerala Museum

Untitled by Company School ArtistKerala Museum

This watchful tiger appears to be winding down on a summer evening. The painting is attributed to the Company School, a hybrid Indian-Western style that developed in India in the 18th-19th century in response to the taste of Europeans patrons in India.

The Tiger (1991) by Chanchal MukherjeeKerala Museum

In stark contrast to the Company School, artist Chanchal Mukherjee's fantastical rainbow tiger is seemingly woven out of foliage, light and shadow.

With his cunning smile and knowing eyes, this tiger's face appears almost human!

Looking closely, we can see a bird hitchhiking through the jungle on the tiger's back...

...and an unknown creature seems to be hiding in the tree behind, watching the tiger pass it by.

Untitled (1985) by Somnath HoreKerala Museum

Somnath Hore, one of Santiniketan's prominent post-independence artists, was a young boy at the time of the Bengal Famine. His works are commentaries on the human suffering caused by the tragic events of the 20th century.

In this work, he depicts what appears to be a woman tormented by strange and ferocious creatures.

A lizard-like creature and an angry bird target the woman's head...

...while a crocodile-like creature clambers up her body. 

Could this beast be an allegory for the violence faced by women in India?

Untitled (1973) by Laxma GaudKerala Museum

Laxma Goud's work is reminiscent of his birthplace, Nizampur in Andhra Pradesh. 

His childhood curiosity and interest in drawing were supported by his family. During his time at art school in Baroda, he depicted rural scenes such as the village potter and weavers, and village theatre, paying singular attention to the costumes. 

This firm footing with his community and his knowledge of animals, fields, and farms gave him a sense of strength and harmony.

Introduced to printmaking by his teacher KG Subramanyam at Baroda, he began to explore line. He was inspired by Picasso's Linear Realism and Paul Klee's exploratory drawings. With technical expertise in printmaking and skilled use of line, he began to explore themes of eroticism.

In this print, he captures a tender yet unselfconscious moment between the lovers. Poetry and dream merge as the artist uses the two crows to symbolise the relationship between the couple. Without particular attention to the identity of the figures, they become metaphors to understand the narrative of the artwork.

In this beautiful print, an elaborately dressed woman stands with her companion.

He stoically looks ahead while she gazes back at a pair of larger-than-life birds that seem to be sharing a tender moment.

Aves-II by Subhaprasanna BhattacharjeeKerala Museum

Other wild birds in the Kerala Museum collection include this striking raven by Shuvaprasanna...

The Bird by Madhava MenonKerala Museum

...and this colourful bird by Madhava Menon, one of the earliest artists from Kerala to study at Shantiniketan. 


Menon loved nature, and painted many watercolour paintings of flowers, animals and trees. He was also a keen birdwatcher and often painted detailed images of birds he spotted in Kerala.

Mountain by Suhas NimbalkarKerala Museum

Suhas Nimbalkar is known for his bright abstract paintings.

Nimbalkar spent some time in Nepal, and was inspired by the sight of the Himalayas. He began painting mountains and gradually abstracted them into tiny triangles

After the birth of his daughter, he started incorporating fairy-like figures in his paintings as a tribute to her love for fairy tales. The work seen here is probably from that phase of his career.

Horse by Sunil DasKerala Museum

Sunil Das's horses are more grounded. He spent hours observing horses in action to capture these sketches in charcoal on paper.

Bull Fight (1952) by Sunil DasKerala Museum

Das's portrayals of energetic bulls are inspired by the bull fights that he observed while in Spain.

Bullock Cart (1981) by M SivanesanKerala Museum

Verging on the abstract, this large painting by M Sivanesan effectively captures the energy of the bulls pulling the cart.

Untitled (1989) by Hari Ambadas GadeKerala Museum

HA Gade depicts the coexistence of humans and animals in a rural setting. A woman draws water, while right next to her, a bull drinks from a trough. A dog in the corner observes them both.

Untitled by Dinanath PathyKerala Museum

Dinanath Pathy uses a monochromatic colour palette to portray a herd of goats in a farm setting

The Cock by Jayasri BurmanKerala Museum

A colour palette of bright yellows, reds and greens for these birds in bold, dynamic brush strokes painted by Jayashree Burman.

The Black Cat (1982) by Nand KatyalKerala Museum

Nand Katyal and his family moved to Delhi during Partition. In the early 1960s, Katyal joined the American Center and served as the Art Director of Span magazine for many years, before becoming a freelance artist. He has had several solo and group shows.

Can you spot a shadowy cat in this beautifully coloured work?

A palette of vibrant colours skillfully blended into hues to hide a black cat in the twilight.

The Cat (1992) by Paresh MaityKerala Museum

Paresh Maity's fluffy, striped cat stares intently at something nearby.

Woman with Dog by Gogi Saroj PalKerala Museum

Gogi Saroj Pal captures the easy companionship between a woman and a dog.

Untitled (1976) by KhemrajKerala Museum

Khemraj's work encompasses life in the sky, on earth and in water. At the centre of the work, a couple lies in an intimate embrace in the middle of a forest.

The sun beats down on the village beyond the forest. Tiny birds sit on the trees in the woods..

...and beyond the forest, fish swim around in the waves of the ocean.

Bright yellow peacock-like birds wander around near the couple...

Natural world creatures have always cast a bridge in the art to function as metaphoric vessels. These interpretations served as a source for many artistic interventions.

Credits: Story

Exhibit curator:
Supriya Menon

Content Editors:
Arundhathy Nayar
Aditi Nayar
Jyothi Elza George 
Gopika Krishnan

Malayalam Translator:
Geeta Nayar

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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