Progressive artist group
Progressive Artists’ Group (PAG) was formed in the newly independent country India in 1947. It is also referred to as the Bombay Progressive Artists’ Group, due to its formation location in Bombay- now Mumbai. It was believed to be the result of partition in 1947 which wreaked havoc on the citizens. The reason behind the establishment was to move ahead from the Bengal school of art and other Indian nationalism artistic styles. It was a challenge for the conservative artistic establishment of the society. The time when Indian art was highly influenced by Rabindranath Tagore’s perspective and lacking the progression for the worldly mindset.
Progressive artist groups open the door for the international audience which indeed gave exposure to the new talents of the country. The result was so profound that it created modernist, post-impressionism, cubism, and expressionism style of art. Initially, the group was comprised of F.N. Souza, S.H Raza, M.F. Husain, K.H. Ara, H.A. Gade, and S.K. Bakre.
Process of establishment
On December 5, 1947, Souza, Raza, Ara, and critic Rashid Husain got together with a desire to transform the establishment of art of their times. They have disillusionment with the state of the judging process at exhibitions. They decided to set up a judging committee which will be will be without partiality and work with proper rules and regulations. They wished to bring greater transparency in the judging procedure so that new talents could get the proper exposure.
Ara, Souza, Raza, and Bakre made up their mind to showcase their artworks together. Souza brings Husain and Raza initiated Gade into the group. The initial idea was to stick with only six members of the group for little artistic conflicts. However, later on, the group expanded with Manishi Dey, Ram Kumar, and Tyeb Mehta. By the year 1950, three more members namely Krishen Khanna, Mohan Samant, and V.S. Gaitonde joined the group. Apart from these members, Akbar Padamsee has a good bonding with the group however he never joined it.
Influence on the Indian art world and style
Progressive Artists’ Group has a vast influence on the Indian art world. Members of PGA developed different styles of work as well as created a door for new talents. Although we cannot classify their works in one category due to their different artistic styles and different approach towards art we cannot deny their valuable contribution to the Indian art world.
It was their contribution in mid 20th century that leads the impressionist, cubic, and modernist movement in the Indian art world. If we look upon the artists after the progressive artist group dissolved then we will find the huge influence of style, modernism, and other quality of the progressives. It is largely due to the fact that these artists don’t only use the modern art style but also Indian classical and tribal art designs in their works. Even we find the influence of Japanese, Korean, and Tibetan art styles in their works.
These creations without borders could not be possible in the nationalistic style and Bombay school of art due to their classical and repetitive approach. This broad world made the artists more sophisticated with their creations. It brought them freedom and gave them more exposure to experiment with the different styles of works while generating their own ideas.
If we talk about the various styles by the artists of PAG then we get to know about the watercolor and gouache paintings resembling folk and native tribal art styles painted by K.H. Ara. While F.N. Souza created a style that was an amalgam of Goan folk art and western style with unconventional distortion of subjects forms. S.H. Raza created works are initially expressionistically depicting lyrical landscapes and later on, he moved towards the abstract style of paintings influenced by extreme geometric forms. M.F. Husain created art with tribal and mythological resemblance while experimenting with cubism in it. There was only sculpture in the group, Sadanand Bakre who used the traditional style of employing realism with distinct expression and sensitive modeling.