From Some, For All: Pioneers of Print Making in India

Artists whose contributions revolutionised the practice of printmaking in India and made art accessible to all

Contemporary printmaking came to India in 1556, about a hundred years after the first Bible was printed by Guttenberg. Printmaking as a mainstream medium for artistic expression emerged more recently.

Hamsa Damayanti (Circa 1910) by Raja Ravi Varma and Ravi Varma Press, Karla LonavalaThe Ganesh Shivaswamy Foundation

Raja Ravi Varma

Ravi Varma was the first artist in India who used printmaking for his art to reach the masses. To achieve this, towards the end of the 19th century,  he set up his own lithographic press known as the 'Ravi Varma Press' in Bombay.

Mandodari (Circa 1910) by Ravi Varma Press Karla Lonavala and Raja Ravi VarmaThe Ganesh Shivaswamy Foundation

Here he copied several of his religious and secular paintings and printed them as glossy oleographs.

Untitled (1955) by Nandlal BoseKerala Museum

Nandalal Bose

Printmaking became popular in India during 1921 with Nandalal Bose introducing it to Kala Bhavan in Santiniketan. From his visit to China and Japan in 1924, he brought back Chinese rubbings and Japanese colour woodcut prints. 

Members of the Society of Contemporary ArtistsKerala Museum

Society of Contemporary Artists

The Society of Contemporary Artists made significant inroads in printmaking in India in the 1960s.

The group was not grounded in any single ideology; its members had very diverse, individual styles, and each created art responding to different themes.

Untitled, Lalu Prasad Shaw, 1971, From the collection of: Kerala Museum
Hanging Circle, Lalu Prasad Shaw, 1970, From the collection of: Kerala Museum
Untitled, Lalu Prasad Shaw, 1991, From the collection of: Kerala Museum
Show lessRead more

Lalu Prasad Shaw started printmaking, particularly etching, after joining the  Society of Contemporary Artists in 1967. He went later on to experiment with lithography as a teacher at Santiniketan.  A surprising fact is the existence of these abstract geometrical etchings by Shaw.  These works are startlingly different from the figurative paintings that he created later in his career.

Maya - 20 (1991) by Sanat KarKerala Museum

Sanat Kar

Founder member of the Society of Contemporary Artists, Sanat Kar, is an outstanding printmaker who experimented with a range of unusual materials. 

Maya - 18 (1991) by Sanat KarKerala Museum

He is the innovator of the cardboard intaglio technique and sun mica engraving techniques of printmaking.

Radha Series (1991) by Sanat KarKerala Museum

The choice of colours and the contrast of light give the figure a sense of eerie void and melancholy mood. In this work, Radha grips her lover's flute and brushes her cheek against it, expressing how much she longs for Krishna.

Untitled (1978) by Somnath HoreKerala Museum

Somnath Hore

Somnath Hore began exploring printmaking techniques in the mid-1950s. His works inspired and influenced members of the Society of Contemporary Artists who took up printmaking in the 1960s.  

Untitled (1985) by Somnath HoreKerala Museum

Hore's works bear testimony to the social tragedies of the mid-20th century, particularly the Bengal Famine of 1943 and the peasant revolt of 1946. The ravaged bodies of the victims of these disasters became the dominant figures in his prints and sculptures.

Somnath Hore presented this work to Madhavan Nayar Foundation in 1992.

Credits: Story

Exhibition Curator:
Gopika Krishnan  
Jyothi Elza George 

Content Editors:
Arundhathy Nayar
Aditi Nayar

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.
Google apps