P.J.Cherian ( Ed )
Essays on the Cultural Formation of Kerala
literature, Art, Architecture, Music, Theatre, Cinema
 

Painting and Sculpture in Modern Kerala - A Historical Overview R.Nandakumar

The history of the modern movement in Kerala art has to be seen in that peculiar context in which Ravi Varma, the Tiruvitamkur artist, has to be considered as the first 'modern' Indian artist. Though it was the characteristically Travancorean cultural milieu and sensibility that had gone into the making of the Ravi Varma that we know of, quite uncharacteristically what he looked forward and addressed himself to was the larger pan-Indian scene. What is proposed here are two aspects. First, the historical context of Ravi Varma's art and artistry is nothing but the cultural disorientation, confusion and contradiction of value-structures that prevailed among the English-educated though loyalist emergent middle class as well as within the court which was the cultural nerve centre of Tiruvitamkur of the latter half of the nineteenth century. Much as this particular aspect of the Tiruvitamkur situation had in common with that of the general Indian scene at large, it prepared the ground for the recognition and acclaim of Ravi Varma's paintings on an all-India level. An elite middle class, that is, in whose life-style the modernity of outlook adopted through English education had also benefited it with jobs and official status, was making itself felt in the social life of Kerala. But of course, as had happened elsewhere, they had to pay so dear for it. The conflict of values and dilemma and the cultural counterposture when faced with alien cultural inputs that veered between self-pity and self-defensiveness were the undercurrent of the cultural movements of the nineteenth century Kerala, no less than were they in other parts of India. What is generally termed as the Renaissance embodies this conflict when faced with alien cultural inputs which on the one hand, accorded perceptions of modernity and on the other, generated moral anxieties and cultural disorientation, both of which were undifferentiated in the continuum of colonial experience. As it so often happens in a situation of structural conflict when a society comes into contact with an alien cultural domination, where the situation lends itself to self-definition only against those inputs which are posited antithetically as a negative value, the conflict is mediated by a characteristic ambivalence of values by internalising them as an apology and, at the same time a defence, a vindication and a denouncement. Such an ambivalence or equivocation was what informed the curious relation of the English-educated and the modernised middle class to English and Western values in general. The same ambivalence was presupposed in the consideration of one as against the other between tradition and modernity, Sanskrit and Malayalam (the word used 'Bhasha' being an approximation of 'vernacular'), prose and verse (interestingly, not poetry). When they were moved by an urge to prove that Malayalam is no less modern a language than English, the attempt inevitably took resort to translating the Sanskrit classics. But when the same translation-prone and pro-English culture laments subsequently that it was these translations of the Sanskrit dramas into Malayalam together with the advent of the Tamil theatricals that brought about a degeneration in taste,1 their curious attitude towards Malayalam as a language is explicit. When the English translation of Sakuntalam by Monier-Williams was staged in the Government Museum Theatre in Trivandrum in two parts on alternate days in September 1892 by an organisation of young Tamil Brahmins called Karamanai Young Men's Mutual Improvement Society (later, Sri Mulam Rama Varma Association, named after the king), Kerala Varma Valia Koil Thampuran, among others like the king and the Resident, was moved by it and complimented them. A certain Padmanabha Aiyer of the Mutual Improvement Society wrote to Monier-Williams the next year: "Our object in acting Hindu plays is to bring home to the Hindus the good lessons that our ancient authors are able to teach us. If there is one lesson in these days more than another which familiarity with the fountains of Western literature constantly forces upon the mind, it is that our age is turning its back on time-honoured creeds and dogmas."2 How such attitudes were perfectly unproblematic within the colonial discourse of culture was symptomatic of the cultural confusion of the age. Alongside this has also to be noted that the customary practice among many Malayalam writers of writing the preface to their own book or of contributing the foreword to some other's, was to do so mostly in English. The author of Mayura Sandesam, riddled as it is with rhetorical figures, contrived onomatopoeia and forced rhyme schemes, could still make an occasional allowance to lucid passages of simple and refined Malayalam. But when it came to writing a novel, his prose had taken on a heavily Sanskritised diction and stilted verbiage. On the formation of the Text Book Committee in the wake of the establishment of vernacular schools, when it was felt that there was no literary prose in Malayalam, those who got down to writing the by definition less respectable prose, did not have to seek far for the subject matter.

At the same time, when the more vocal among the modernised sector were critical of their fellowmen in their tendency to imitate the customs and manners of the British to the contempt of their own time-honoured practices, it was nothing but an echo of the liberal reformism of the British themselves, but with less conviction. And when many of them spoke about tradition, history and the larger perspective of national culture, the terms of reference being popular beliefs and textual Brahmanism, it was well in tune with the universalist-integrationist parameters of British liberalism and the cross-cultural synthesis it promoted. As with the exhortation of Lord Napier in the early 1870s to depict Indian mythological subjects with the powers of European art which Ravi Varma took to diligently, so did the thought waves of modernism originating from Fort St. George, with its overtones of empiricism and universalism, find their way to Thiruvananthapuram periodically. When the literature of the period is characterized as neoclassical, a concomitant sensibility if expected to bear upon the other forms of art, does not in fact hold true. In a certain sense, it is in this gap that existed between literature and the other forms of art in terms of sensibility that the Ravi Varma paintings found themselves comfortably placed. Even the practice of associating a line or two from the better known contemporary translations of Sanskrit classics with his paintings, was not common in his own day. But it was only later when the prints of his works were in vogue that such a link was struck in the popular imagination. Secondly, the particular nature of the influence that the artist Ravi Varma has had on the Kerala art scene has to be considered. As one who had spent the active years of his artistic career outside Kerala under the patronage of Chamarajendra Wodeyar and his successor, Krishnaraja Wodeyar, of Mysore, Sayajirao Gaekwad III of Baroda and many other kings of the princely states, it is not the better known canvases that made him known for what he is, but the oleographic prints of the latter day that were more familiar in Kerala. It is known that on two occasions, around 1905, some of his canvases were put up for public view in the School of Arts in Thiruvananthapuram; on one occasion they were the paintings commissioned by the king of Mysore, shortly before they were sent to him. The enterprising and ambitious professional that he was, he did not bring to bear upon his work much that was characteristically rooted in the Kerala tradition. But then, it is perhaps equally true to say that such a living tradition sustained by a process of historical continuity and organic evolution that defined its distinctive identity, was non-existent in the case of visual arts in Kerala. Speaking about the wood carvings outside the sanctum of temples in Malabar, depicting Ramayana stories in a non-iconic style, though Stella Kramrisch3 observes that they are 'truly popular' and, though Clifford Jones4 points towards the influence of kalamezhuthu on the style of the later murals and, again recently though Kapila Vatsyayan5 refers to the folk character of the leather puppetry narrating Ramayana stories, what is doubtful is whether a confluence of all these various strands did add up to a substratum according orientation points to perceptual modes and sustaining terms of communication so as to form a tradition of visual culture, the vital presence of which is part of the collective life-experience of the people. It appears that pageant and spectacle associated with festivities and other religious observances, as distinct from an articulate image-making for pictorial expression, had always been the staple of the Kerala visual culture. And going by verbal associations and semantic logic, the fact that the word for 'sight' is generally used in conjunction with poli, kani, puram etc., all of which have associations of the ceremonial spectacle or pageant, would be taken to have a bearing on this. The distinctively Kerala style of wood carving degenerates into ornate and crafty workmanship by the mid nineteenth century. Coming to the stone sculptures, including the brilliant Vishnu figure from Niramankara and the early Jaina figures from the far south and the five Buddha figures from central Tiruvitamkur, their formal and stylistic features, as far as they go, are not much unlike that of the east coast of the corresponding periods. However, in the absence of a historically sustained and uninterrupted tradition, the constant suggestion of which people live by in interaction with the everchanging meaning of its particular forms in the present, the influence of Ravi Varma's painting on the Kerala society of his day was not, in point of fact, as deep or radical as to bring about a qualitative change in its visual culture. When a feed back of the recognition and acclaim that Ravi Varma had won for himself elsewhere in the country was felt back home in Kerala, the English-educated middle class during the first decades of this century took an interest in him, only to rediscover him through those gilted and varnished oleographs. Art was only a peripheral sector of life to the nineteenth century westernised middle class as could be seen from the intellectual climate, the emotional ferment and the general sensibility of the period which were all but an ill-assorted mass of ambiguities and contradictions.

But there was another historical context to the phenomenal vogue of Ravi Varma's oleographs among the nineteenth century middle class. In the old tradition of domestic architecture—the nalukettu or ettukettu—that was well-adapted to the way of life and the social mores of the joint-family system, the place of worship was outside the house in the kavu, tara or kalari, the exclusiveness of which was guarded by absolute faith. The object of worship was mostly a metonymic representation of the numinous or was totemic in nature like the pidha, ayudha, tara, mudi, tree, etc. This mode of worship associated with ancestral-totemic cults had an ambience of ritualistic abstraction about it and was well-accommodated within the Brahmanic Hinduism. But when in place of the old nalukettu or ettukettu, new houses with tiled roof and with laterite and lime mortar walls were built named bungalow or villa, they were the outcome of a changed economic structure and social outlook. The puja room that such houses invariably had in each denoted a change of attitude on the part of the English educated and modernised emergent middle class towards religion. It was a religious consciousness that was perfectly attuned to the commonsense rationality and positivism that they have newly acquired which had also validated the concept of a personal deity in the context of a religion that was more of ceremony than ritual. It was in fact through the development of the concept of 'Hinduism' and its content which, as J.C. Heesterman6 notes, coming up in the eighteen thirties in English literature on India and expressing nothing more than an ill-assorted complex of social and religious customs, rites and beliefs, both popular and scriptural, that the educated Indians expressed the awareness of a new universalistic identity. The religious consciousness that found its fulfillment in the puja room of the modernised middle class had all the stuff of this 'Hinduism' that was gaining ground through the diffusion of the imageries and symbols of the puranic lore and the personalised deities of the Brahmanic pantheon. Quite characteristically, Ravi Varma became the legitimate exponent of this new religious consciousness and sensibility who could give expression to it 'on truly rational lines', to quote a phrase from Nagam Aiya7. And his oleographic prints could find their way into these puja rooms with a natural ease. The glass paintings of Hindu gods and goddesses in the Tanjore style were still co-existing with Ravi Varma's oleographs though the latter were more in favour because of their newfangled glory.

Reading, the circulation of the printed word, the emergence of the new form of prose in keeping with contemporary language use, the emergence of the new genre of the novel, together with the popularity of the printed image, were all concomitant with the new sense of 'realism' through which the rationality of the public sphere expressed itself for the emergent middle class. But together with the structural changes in fundamental attitudes and value system in the wake of the emergence of a distinctively private sphere into which religion was receding, and with the circulation of the printed word, there was a shift in the social locus of the aesthetic discourse. As the gods and goddesses of the epics and puranas reincarnated in their essentially Kerala adaptations through the temple arts like kathakali, koothu, padhakom and thullal, which were the medium of the bhakti ideology, meaning generating discourses and the larger system of signification that their artistic conventions gave rise to were embodied in the oral traditions of different non-literate communities. Ezhuthacchan's Adhyatma Ramayana and Mahabharata, more than being the prime textual source of the recitative pedagogy that addressed the non-literate community of people, were also sacramental objects that symbolised the interface implicit in the correlation between learning and the Brahmanic practice of religion or more commonly, between literacy and bhakti. In such a situation, when these epics were getting into circulation through printed, mass-produced copies, the printed word in its move towards greater transparency as signifier sought a closer correspondence with the printed image.

Though the great epics by Ezhuthacchan were already part of Malayalam incunabula (the first editions of Mahabharata and Adhyatma Ramayana were printed in 1862 by the Vidya Vilasam Press, Manjeri), copies were very rare and high-priced and were in the possession of only the wealthy. (The 1862 edition of Mahabharata was priced four and a half rupees per copy which obviously meant a lot money then).8 This situation changes by the last decades of the nineteenth century when better and cheaper productions of the collated and redacted texts of these epics (costing only one fifth of the earlier edition) were printed and distributed by the Vidyabhivardhini Press founded in 1886 at Kollam by Subbiah Tennat Reddiar, one of the pioneers of Malayalam publishing.9 This was the first illustrated edition of Adhyatma Ramayana to be printed, using engraving on thin lead-alloy sheet mounted on wood block (and not wood-cut, as is generally supposed). Significantly, all the illustrations were in authentic Tanjore miniature style. But the subsequent editions around the turn of the century, while retaining all the illustrations in the Tanjore style, found a need and a way too, to appropriate a popular Ravi Varma image. Here, a small engraved copy after Ravi Varma's popular oleograph of Lakshmi is appended as a logo at the beginning of every canto.

In short, the influence that Ravi Varma's pictures had on the Kerala society of his day was not anything that had brought about a radical orientation in its visual culture or sensibility. When a School of Industrial Arts was established in Thiruvananthapuram sometime around 1862 (later the School of Arts and presently the College of Fine Arts) along the lines on which the British envisaged the promotion of Indian crafts, the students who mostly sought training in painting were from the artisan castes with hereditary skills and with modest professional interests and ambitions. The image of Ravi Varma loomed large before them as the model of the most successful Indian artist. It was for the first time that an artist, unlike his immediate predecessors who were hardly more than anonymous craftsmen, belonging to hereditary groups of skilled professionals, is addressing himself to the high calling of painting in oil and establishing himself in his own individual right as artist. For them Ravi Varma was the artist par excellence who could match the British at their own game as one who can competently handle the oil medium and the Western illusionistic techniques. It was only with Ravi Varma that the concept of an individual artist with a professional identity and career consciousness and an extra-social space that he had claimed for himself by virtue of his image and role as artist has come about in the Kerala cultural context. It was in fact these aspects and not so much the intrinsic features of his own artistry, which were to prove to be of great consequence to the later Kerala art scene. At a time when a general familiarity with world art, not to speak of the recently surfacing knowledge about Indian classical art, was meagre, Ravi Varma came to be considered as the pre-eminent exponent of western realism. The more disastrous influence perhaps was the notion that European realism could be rediscovered through Ravi Varma.

Though the Victorian sensibility of the ruling British frowned down on the 'monstrous shapes of the multiarmed Hindu deities and their bosomy spouses', the more so because of their Pagan associations, they were generous towards the native craft bric-a-brac for its exotic charm and exportability. They envisaged a system of training to promote the production of these craft objects which led to the establishment of training centres called 'Industrial School of Art' in Madras, Calcutta and later in Bombay. And so was it that a school of art was established in Tiruvananthapuram around 186210 with its objective in keeping with those of the others elsewhere, but appears to have ceased to exist soon afterwards. The Travancore State Manual refers to "a small establishment of carving in ivory under the direction of a Brahmin who designed the pattern and saw them executed, with a view to cultivate the art of carving in which the Travancore workmen had already attained great eminence"11, during the year 1872-73. Referring to this establishment it is also stated elsewhere that ivory works carved by Thiruvitamkur craftsmen were much admired and were sent to various exhibitions in India and Europe. When many orders and enquiries came in, it became necessary to start a department of ivory carving under the Government in 1872-73 "and the department worked for 15 years when it was incorporated with the School of Arts where this work is still chiefly being carried on."12 Right from the start, it is seen that the work turned out in the School was mainly carving in ivory, wood and coconut shell. "This school did all the carving work in ivory and wood in the presents sent for the acceptance of Her Majesty the Queen Empress on the occasion of Her Majesty's Jubilee."13 The School used to receive orders and execute them accordingly, as well as purchase craft objects for display and sale. During the year 1887-88, as a step towards the improvement and expansion of the school, "by the addition of other branches of industry K. Narayana Iyer, B.A. was sent to the School of Arts, Madras to study the working of that School... He returned towards the middle of the year under report [1888-89] and was appointed superintendent of the Industrial School. The services of three trained men viz., a designer and two potters from the Madras School of Arts were secured and a new building was made available for the school."14 It was until then attached to Huzur. As part of the reorganization of the school, its work was classified under two heads, the art and the industry and it was only then that art of any sort was introduced in the school for the first time.

Thirty apprentices were admitted towards the close of the year [1888-89] to be trained in the School. They were carefully selected from among those possessed of some education and taste for the arts. They are in the beginning taught freehand drawing, model drawing, practical geometry, modelling, designing etc., and are in addition set to practise, during a portion of the day, the several branches of industry carried on in the institution. A drawing class has also been arranged to be opened for outside peoples.15

The industrial branch offered training in lacquer work, kuft-gari work, carving on wood, ivory, horn, coconut shell etc., and pottery and porcelain manufacture. It is seen that as part of the reorganization of the school again in 1895-96, courses of instruction in painting were introduced for the first time. "The conditions for the admission of apprentices are that they are at least 10 years of age, that they have passed a primary school, and that they are the sons of artisans engaged in the industry to which they are apprenticed."16 What is of interest to note here is that there was a steady increase in the number of students admitted to drawing class which rose from 15 to 51 in 1900-01 and was 80 in 1912-13, of which 19 were girls. The school was again reorganized during that year. The students had to qualify themselves in what was called the Madras Technical Examinations. A number of Technical Schools were also started later in Kollam, Alapuzha, Nagarcoil etc.

Following the introduction of what was called the art branch in 1888 there was a marked increase in the number of admissions to those classes over the years. On its reorganization which was obviously modelled on the Madras School of Arts, the system that came handed down was none other than what was in practice in other schools founded earlier by the British—a watered down and rule-of-thumb adaptation of what was known as the South Kensington style. Though the art school training that was for a term of five years would have given them some practical working knowledge in handling the medium of oil and the western academic realism, we hardly come across anyone who is a product of this system being recognised as an artist. Going by the census of 1901, there were 919 painters in the state, but we have no documentary or other evidence to know what sort of painters they were or what they have painted. Discussing the general Indian situation of the period, K.G. Subramanian observes: "The artists of the old craft tradition got swept into the fields of functional and decorative arts and subsisted precariously. The new artists whom the art schools trained were not drawn from them and did not, after training, get into a situation of secure patronage; they were individual practitioners, whether painters or sculptors or designers; they had to seek their public through personal initiative."17 Though this observation puts the larger Indian context in perspective, it does not wholly meet the case of Kerala, given its particular conditions, and the differences are too significant to be overlooked. For one thing, the traditional schools of painting like that of the miniaturists or patuas or many other regional styles found elsewhere, were non-existent in Kerala and hence the introduction of western academic realism did not create any conflict of values or of artistic concepts. Moreover, what was taught within the school was in tandem with what was already much in the air and well-accepted through the work of Ravi Varma. In fact, the history of contemporary art that they lived by was centred around the person of Ravi Varma and his individual achievement, which was gaining ground as a movement through his numerous imitators and disciples. Against this background the question why the art-school system did not produce any artist worth his name, becomes all the more important. It was because these art school-trained people, even in the second and third generation after Ravi Varma, could not emerge into the social frame of the artist's professional identity and could not identify with the image and role of the artist qua artist, as it was socially defined and legitimised. For all that, it was exemplified in the person of Ravi Varma.

The disciples and followers of Ravi Varma, in the second and third generation after him, came not from the art-school system but from a tradition of private apprenticeship of sorts under some of his kinsmen. His younger son Rama Varma Raja was having a few such disciples when P.J. Cherian sought training in portrait painting under him in 1913 at his studio in Mavelikara, where it was started not long before. Cherian describes how his mentor, respectfully called Artist Thampuran, went about giving them advanced lessons in "portrait, landscape and subject paintings"18. [sic] (Together with N.N. Nambiar, a colleague of his, Cherian thought about the need to establish a school for teaching painting and with the help from their mentor, a school named after Ravi Varma was started the next year at Mavelikara.) Those who were privileged enough to secure this private apprenticeship were mostly the family descendants or those close to such families and invariably from the upper castes. The emphasis seems to be particularly on the matter of handling the oil medium and the mastery of the human figure and portraiture. The amount of significance attached to the venerable medium of oil painting, which was the superior craft of the master—the British—could be seen from the few anecdotes attributed to Ravi Varma which, though could be apocryphal, are upheld by all his biographers. The unmistakable pattern of the anecdotes, one associated with Ramaswamy Naidu and the other with Theodore Jenson, is that the medium of oil was a closely guarded professional secret which was persistently denied him and he mastered it on his own, inspite of the denial. So it was from this tradition of personal apprenticeship that his privileged followers carried on the ideals that Ravi Varma set himself and in that sense, were the true heirs of his legacy, as distinct from the art school-trained. The artist came only from this tradition which goes on well into the second quarter of this century. The curious practice of having the epithet 'artist' prefixed to their names—like Artist Rama Varma Raja, Artist Chevalier P.J. Cherian, Artist K.M. Varghese—testifies to the respectability that is bestowed on the profession, the reflected glory of which was enough for the art school-trained to keep up their marginal self-esteem.

The first decades of the post-Ravi Varma period had marked the beginning of some substantially valuable movements on the cultural front of Thiruvitamkur. For the first time, the visual arts of Kerala had been the subject of serious research and study. The contributions of T.A. Gopinatha Rao who, during the course of his study of Hindu iconography, had extensively studied and documented the Kerala temple arts and had identified the five Buddha figures from central Thiruvitamkur and the several Jaina sculptures from south Thiruvitamkur, are valuable as the pioneering effort in that field. The eminent art historian, H.S. Fergusson who was then working on his classic thesis on the tree and serpent worship in India, was around as the director of the Government Museum and Public Gardens, Thiruvananthapuram. Again it was for the first time that an art historian of the stature of no less than Stella Kramrisch had taken up the study of the murals and sculptures of Kerala. (Originally commissioned by Artibus Asiae, it was the expanded version of it that was incorporated in the later book she has coauthored). The researches of Dr. C. Achutha Menon on the ritual and anthropology of Kali worship in Kerala and his observations on the significance of kalamezhuthu published in 1943 from the Madras University, deserve special mention here. All these studies to trace the contours of the distinctive features of the Kerala pictorial and plastic expression and to define the identity of its tradition were not unrelated and isolated academic efforts. Many activities that were collateral and complementary to this perspective were already under way. The renovation of the Padmanabhapuram Palace around 1938, the establishment of Sri Chitralayam, a State Gallery of Oriental painting in 1935, the formation of a Faculty of Fine Arts subsequent on the foundation of the Travancore University in 1937 and such other steps bear testimony to a general awakening in the intellectual and cultural spheres. The Art-Advisor to Government, during the reign of Sri Chitira Thirunal, the Irishman, Kulapati Jayaram Cousins, describes the thirties as a renaissance of art n Travancore.19 It was Cousins who was in charge of the organisation of the Sri Chitralayam and the transformation of the old Napier Museum "into an impressive collection of Indian arts and crafts." The collection housed in the gallery was also nothing meagre. Along with the copies of Kerala and Ajanta murals, the collection was representative of works ranging from Rajput-Mughal miniatures to the Bengal School. Added to this was also the works from Tibet, Persia and Japan as well as the paintings of Ravi Varma which the successors of the artist had entrusted to the gallery on permanent loan. An annex to the museum was later "added in the former Library, in which a collection of works of arts of Java, Bali and China, made by their Highnesses on their tour of Java and Bali in 1937, and a number of the striking paintings of the famous Russian artists, Nicholas and Svetoslav Roerich, who have long lived in the Himalayas, are on free public display."20 It may be noted in this context that as far back as 1895 Ravi Varma had addressed the government on the matter of establishing an art gallery in Thiruvananthapuram. In his letter to the dewan of Tiruvitamkur, S. Sankarasubba Iyer, dated 31st August 1895, Ravi Varma makes an elaborate proposal stating that "An art gallery... for such an advanced State as Travancore is a necessity which can [no] longer be ignored." He also mentions that the "scheme... first originated with the late Mr. Grigg, the British Resident who... would have elaborated and proposed it to the Government himself."21

Though it is not, however, possible to see any remarkable achievement of a renaissance in the visual arts that Cousins mentions, the urge to go into the history of the Kerala tradition of sculpture and painting and to define its specifically regional identity of style was informed by the Renaissance-prone attitude towards a cultural self-image. Naturally enough it was located within the context of cultural contacts with the British and the characteristic conflict of values it had caused. Though the trend initiated by Ravi Varma was gaining ground through the inane and facile exercises in academic realism by his second and third generation followers and by the art school system, it could not relate itself in any way to the changed intellectual ethos or the ideational context of what has come to be called the Renaissance. Conversely, the attitude of the exponents of the cultural revival towards that art movement was one of ambiguity and ambivalence. These artists themselves were outside of the major ideological dimensions of the conflict of values between tradition and modernity or between colonialism and nationalism. For their part, what mattered was less the painting itself than their own having to paint. For many in fact, painting did not mean anything more than an activity that could sustain an amateurish fancy for the application or exercise of a newly acquired skill in a certain medium. Many of them had taken to photography, incorporating their painterly skills with it and maintaining them alongside each other, making scale enlargements of a mechanical sort, black and white photographs that are painted over or given some corrective 'touches', stumping, scenic diorama and so on. Speaking about the general situation elsewhere in the country around this time, K.G. Subramanian notes: "The nationalist opinion in India looked upon the function of these art schools critically. They disapproved of their dead pan realism, their lack of contact with the country's art tradition, their disinterest in such changes as were taking place contemporaneously in the West, and, therefore, looked around for an alternative."22 How far this situation contrasts with that of Kerala of the same period is all too obvious.

Her Highness Maharani Sethu Parvathi Bayi, in her convocational address at the Andhra University in Guntur in December 1942 says:

During the last few years, our contacts with the later developments of European civilization have, however, produced a state of dis-equilibrium. False social values were created by the rise of what has been described as a 'white collar' or clerical class who, though useful to a limited degree, tended to occupy the front stage in life. An employee in a Government Office or a member of one of the professional classes was regarded with a special respect whereas a great musician, a fine sculptor or a skilled artisan was treated with much less regard.23

Though the tone of self criticism here has the familiar ring of the liberal reformism of the British, the contradiction of values in this stand is paradigmatic of the situation. The idiom of painting "on truly rational lines" was brought about precisely by "our contacts with the later developments of European civilization" and found much favour particularly with the same 'white collar' class, but is held in great esteem by even those who are critical of that class. While the concern about denial of recognition to a great artist can be indicative of a progressive social outlook, the unreal nature of the situation that is here lamented becomes clear for the simple reason that there was no such great musician24 or fine sculptor then, whereas there was the case of painters being spared no recognition, whether they were equal to it or not. What is of interest to the present context is to note that the painters who were never short of recognition as to lament it, came as was seen before, invariably from the exclusiveness of an alternate system as opposed to that of the art school. Why then was the art school-trained consistently deprived of self assertion as artist? Lastly, the exact nature of the perceptions of art among that class when it lamented or condemned its denigration, has to be noted. In an article titled 'Our National Games', the author states that, "In the absence of anything better, I offer the following classification..." and goes on to classify games into physical, intellectual and aesthetic and under aesthetic games are included poetry, music, painting and sculpture. "The main characteristic of this class of games is that they chiefly arouse the emotions of the spectators. The more they are realistic, the more they are perfect. In every one of them there is a symbolism harmonizing with the nature of the passions which the performance is designed to create."25 One is left to wonder what the words 'realistic' and 'symbolism' should be taken to mean in this passage. Simple-minded and naive as it is, it is typical of the sensibility of the educated middle class and of their elitist attitude towards whatever is meant by art.

If such were the articulated attitudes, values and presuppositions existing in a society that define and express the relation of the artist to it, the way it is brought to bear upon the self-image of the artist answers only too well the general situation in the visual arts of Kerala of that period.

When in the forties Malayalam literature has taken long strides ahead, the reasons for the general stagnation and insularity in the visual arts of Kerala are many. Though the literature was open to influences from outside from time to time, it was receptive to those influences as more than a matter of compulsive cross-cultural synthesis and were integrated with its own terms and sensibility as the orientation points were still rooted in a historically sustained tradition. This had never been the case with the state of visual arts in Kerala as it has come about in the first quarter of this century. The orientation points of its reality perception and terms of communication were not derived from the continuity of a tradition. It was, moreover, totally disengaged from the social reality and so it could not find its place, in any meaningful relation, within a scheme of values. When there were crucial movements elsewhere in the country breaking new ground and opening out new directions and bringing in new values and concepts, the Kerala art could not align itself to the mainstream of the national scene and was bound down within its stagnant and outmoded insularity. The Bengal school which had partaken in the ideological implications of nationalism, had proliferated in numerous regional idioms through bland and inane copies. Jamini Roy and Amrita Sher-Gill both took the Bengal school as a point of departure and denounced its pale and languid sentimentalism. The forties also witnessed the formation of artists' groups like the Calcutta Group (1943) and the Progressive Artists' Group in Bombay (1948), with artists who were to become some of the most eminent in the latter day. None of even the remotest resonance of these has reached Kerala or has left any influence on our sensibility. Pictorial expression was by and large known to be still the 'drawing and painting' as practised within the art school. The trend that came in the wake of Ravi Varma which was as much as half a century old, was gaining ground through its art school authority that turned out cheap and vulgar imitations. As for sculpture, there was hardly anything worth the name at that time. The artifacts turned out from the S.M.S.M. Institute like the wood carving of the elephant and the kathakali masks or the moulded effigies of the three monkeys and of Lord Krishna piping the flute, mass-produced by the Trivandrum School of Art, were the familiar form of sculpture.

It was earlier in the decade following Independence and the reorganization of the state that some changes make themselves felt. It was only natural that during the decades immediately preceding and following the state reorganization, many of those who have joined the Madras School of Arts were from the north and central parts of Kerala, as that region comprising the erstwhile Malabar came under the Madras Presidency. The later geographic realignment which carried with it its natural stylistic allegiances and affiliations, contributing to the diffusion of generalized, but school-specific, regional idioms, had its parallel elsewhere, too. As for example, before the reorganization of the state of Mysore, North Karnataka region belonged to the Bombay Presidency and naturally, most of the artists from that region were trained at the J.J. School of Arts, Bombay, while those from the coastal areas went to Madras. Around this time some of those who have joined the Madras School of Arts, which was headed by Deviprasad Roy Chowdhury since 1929, were K.C.S. Paniker (who joined in 1936), K. Madhava Menon, M.V. Devan, Trikkiteeri Vasudevan Namboodiri, M.V. Krishnan, M.N. Krishnan Nair, K.M. Vasudevan Namboodiri, V. Krishnan Namboodiri, Rajeswaran, Natesan, Sreedharan, Ponnamma, Padmavathi, Panjal Subramonian Namboodiri, A.S. Nayar, P.M. Antony, etc. Only a couple of artists at that time are known to have been trained in Santiniketan, one of them being Madhava Menon who went there after short periods of training under A.P. Bannerjee for a year and later under R.N. Chakravarty in Andhra Jatiya Kalasala in Masulipattam. He spent a year under Nandalal Bose to be followed by another short period under Abanindranath Tagore, before joining the Madras School under D.P. Roychoudhury, where also he continued for not more than a year. He had served as the director of the Sri Chithra Art Gallery in Thiruvananthapuram from 1942-50 and later joined the Annamalai University in 1954 from where he retired in 1973. His works, mostly of trees, flowers and animals, are marked by a characteristically lyrical invocation of nature and his delicate feeling for details is imbued with a zestful assertion of nature's elan. The other artist of the time usually associated with Santiniketan was C.K. Ramakrishnan Nair (known as C.K. Ra). While his works, though, are no great marvel, as a teacher always in sympathy with innovation and as a vociferous advocate of creative freedom, he had been quite influential. He had his initial training under Rama Varma Raja, the younger son of Ravi Varma, and worked with the British Information Department in Bombay during the war. When the war was over he left Bombay and took to teaching, first at a school in Coimbatore and later at the Ravi Varma Painting School, Mavelikara. He had a brief term of training in Santiniketan as per the reorientation programme for art-teachers envisaged by Jawaharlal Nehru and had later become Superintendent of the School of Arts, Thiruvananthapuram. But it was the contacts with and allegiance to the Madras school that was to prove to be decisive to the Kerala art scene as a lingering influence right upto the present day. Yet as could be seen, going by a regional representation, almost all who went to Madras School then were from the central and northern Kerala and only a few of them could make their grade as artists involved with the art activities of Kerala. This phenomenon of the art school training, inspite of the formal mastery it offers, not leading upto a fulfillment of the creative potential or artistic pursuit seems to have an underlying pattern that keeps repeating from the corresponding situation of the Trivandrum School in the early decades, discussed elsewhere, onwards to the present. It has to do, at least partially, with the mode of art-education and partially with the level of art-awareness prevalent in the society.


Deviprasad Roy Chowdhury who was the principal of the Madras School from 1929 to his retirement in 1957, was not involved with the ground-breaking and historical art-movements going on in his own homeland and stayed away from all its ideological implications. An artist of rather outmoded yet eclectic views on art, his sculptural idiom had formal affinities with Rodin but not being conceptually free from his own neoclassic moorings, it created only an unconvincing blend. Not given much to contemplation about the theory and less about the philosophy of art, art for him was still what it meant to many others, as a privileged hobby of the leisure class. These attitudes of the 'master' (as he was fondly called by his disciples) might have gone a long way in conditioning those of his disciples and in formulating the ideological premises that had made the Madras School what it is. A certain tendency to oversimplify the multidimensional significance of the activity called art, to ignore all its social and intellectual dimensions which are held to be at variance with its supposed 'disinterestedness' and to reduce art to craft are still some of the unmistakable features that the school is known for over the years. A certain unthinking facility and easy virtuosity that comes ready to hand by conditioning as a matter of course, is supposed to be 'style' in a craft-specific and skill-oriented system of art education. The self-conscious academic authority that is so acquired hardly ever graduates itself into a historically conscious personal authenticity which is the necessary part of an artist's creative equipment. One has to undo the craft to reorient himself to the higher demands of expression and meaningful communication. Art education that does not equip one with the consciousness of this struggle and with an urgency of conviction about the consequent rediscovery, always stops short at craft and competence. And craft which can be cultivated to lend a formal accomplishment and virtuosity, if not sustained and reoriented by deeper urges, meets with its inevitable dead end beyond which it cannot be pressed into service. The unrelieved stagnation of the situation where craft is mastered and used up early, leads many to give up painting for good which is what has happened at least in some cases of the Madras-trained artists in Kerala.


Among the Malayalis who were the first to get training under Roy Chowdhury and K.C.S. Paniker, is the renowned M.V. Devan. Active on the cultural front as the editor of the Madras-based Malayalam literary journal Nava Sahiti formed in the early fifties and a cultural organiser, he is one of the very few Malayali artists who has a wide-ranging repertory of interests including literature, theatre and architecture. Subsequently as he joined the Mathrubhumi weekly as its illustrator, apart from his illustrations, the art-reviews he had contributed occasionally to the weekly, introducing some young Malayali artists practising in Madras are some of the serious art-thinking to appear in Malayalam for the first time. But for all that, there was practically no movement or activity in the Kerala art scene and the activity, whatever little, was still centred in Madras city and School for many Malayali painters for years to come.

Apart from Devan, the few others who used to write on art in the fifties were E.M.J. Venniyoor, K.P. Padmanabhan Thampi and C.K. Ramakrishnan Nair, from around Thiruvananthapuram. They were mostly writing about the rudimentaries of practical lessons or biographical-descriptive sketches or about a vague and ill-defined notion of modernism. In any case, such writings are indicative of the general level of visual culture and sensibility of the period.

From the mid-fifties itself concepts and notions of modernism, though amorphous and ill-defined, were in the air. Having little conceptual underpinnings and less historical perspective, these notions of modernism did not amount to more than an ingenuous and simple-minded reflection of the vacuousness of the prevailing art situation itself. The art situation by itself falling short of offering the necessary terms of reference for a discussion of modernism with its own social bases of reality perception, those writings did not carry any conviction and were, in a way, out of season. Unable to keep abreast of or to respond meaningfully to the main axis of developments elsewhere on a pan-Indian level, the art scene of Kerala even during the fifties was bound down to the premises of a school-specific style that drew on regional nativism, representing a brand of what may be called provincial modernism. A look at the national scene would make the point in stark contradistinction. Many of the significant artists who have started their career in the mid-forties and who were destined to play a crucial role in the history of contemporary Indian art, have already graduated themselves into a position of recognition and eminence. As far back as the early forties itself, there were artists active on the scene like P.T. Reddy, belonging to the Bombay Group founded in 1941, Pradosh Das Gupta, Pran Krishna Pal, Rothin Moitra, Gopal Ghosh, Bansi Gupta, Nirode Mazumdar, Paritosh Sen etc., belonging to the Calcutta Group founded in 1943 and individual artists like the Ceylonese poet-turned-painter George Keyt, N.S. Bendre, Shivax Chavda and K.K. Hebbar. Coming to the late forties and fifties, there was the Progressive Artists Group formed in 1948 with artists like Francis Newton Souza, Maqbool Fida Hussain, Krishnaji Ara, Saiyed Haider Raza, H.A. Gade, S.K. Bakre, etc. Among the individual painters who did not belong to any group and were working from different parts of the country, were Tyeb Mehta, Akbar Padamsee in Bombay, Kishen Khanna who was then in Madras, V.S. Gaitonde in Bombay, K.C.S. Paniker and Sreenivasalu in Madras, Ramkumar and Satish Gujral in Delhi, Dhanraj Bhagat and Sailoz Mukherjee also in Delhi, and so on. The pattern that emerges from the composition of these groups has a distinctive slant towards art as an urban-centred activity—a tendency perhaps that still persists. Though a discussion of their works individually at any length is not possible in this context, what can be seen is that they were all living upto the contemporary impulses and, with a historically conscious response, were part of an ongoing process. Their terms of reference were drawn from the contemporary Indian art situation, which had before it the legacy of the whole Bengal Movement and its masters like Nandalal Bose, Binode Bihari Mukherjee, Ramkinker etc., and Amrita Sher-Gil, Jamini Roy and Rabindranath Tagore. They were alive in whatever measure to the Indian social realities and at the same time receptive to the wave of internationalism currently in the air. When such significant changes were under way and when such bustling of creative energy was felt even in neighbouring states like Tamil Nadu (K.C.S. Paniker, Sreenivasalu), Karnataka (K.K.Hebbar26) and Andhra Pradesh (P.T. Reddy, Redappa Naidu etc.), the Kerala situation was far from anywhere near it.

A mannered and bland version of the third generation Bengal school idiom was currently familiar in Kerala through prints and copies published in magazines. But for that, what was more prevalent was a curious notion of modernism, as if by adding an unfelicitous and clumsy twist to deface or mar the academic 'correctness' of the image and to render its realism out of sorts, one arrives at the 'modern' or 'abstract' which were synonymous for many. These paintings with some much-assuming titles and pretensions to philosophic profundity were mostly a literal contrivance of an image with some unmistakable cross-connections and links of reference to an illustrated idea. The terms in currency used to characterise such paintings were 'distortion' and 'symbolism'. The painters of the Chitrakala Parishat based in Trissoor which had a regional representation of the northern Kerala, mostly were practising such an idiom which had even an academic acceptance as the image-concept was derivative of its own norms. The Parishat was having its publication called Kala Srishti in which these paintings were reproduced and written about. Then there was another version of 'modernism' which was a naively fanciful piecing together of some stock-in-trade images with given attributes and predetermined associative correspondences, like cacti, cross, an eye with a trickling drop of tear, cobweb, a snuffed out candle with encrusted wax drippings, crescent moon and so on, deployed in different combinations. The rudimentary and crude level of their artistry cannot be better described than in terms of the famous Coleridgean postulate about fancy, that it has no other counters to play with but fixities and definites and that equally with the ordinary memory it must receive all is materials ready made from the law of association.27 If both these kinds of paintings were slapdash and messy in the handling of the medium and techniques and fudgy in their formal and conceptual aspects, a few of the more ambitious tried their hand at a more contemporary stylistic contrivance. Their subjects were again the same village scenes, village belle, festivals or still life with familiar domestic utensils rendered in sketchy strokes and loose brush work with bright warm colours made the more so by local hue and exaggerated light. Or else, these same subjects while retaining the academic-realist figure concept, were cut up into broad and angular colour areas that were balanced by thick binding lines in a sort of cubist mannerism, at times in a textured surface worked on with palette knife and thick paint. Many of them used to paint in several of these 'modern styles' alongside each other and they had an easy appeal with the spectators as 'convincing modernism' because they lent themselves to an easy recognition and identification of the notional subject matter among the whole fabrication.

These paintings displayed a fanciful notion about modernism that was out of contact with the ongoing movements on the national scene and as if they felt that 'style' is what a movement is all about. Given the ill-assorted and vague premises, it became a legitimization for all the heavy-handed and lumbering way in which they went about the formal configuration, like weak drawing, poor sense of colour and shabby composition, all of which were explained away by the cant term 'obscurity'. This 'obscurity' was held to be an essential attribute of modernism right through the seventies when it became the central issue in literary polemics. One of the reasons for this is that the terms of reference for modernism were still drawn from within the vacuous and redundant situation of a confrontation with the academic-realist idiom associated with Ravi Varma which was the only authentic pictorial idiom known. To deviate from it and to take it as a point of departure was all that modernism meant for them. And this style was a good three quarters of a century old by then in Kerala (barring its age in the European context where it originated) and was long discarded as obsolete and inconsequential on the national scene at large. But in Kerala it was closely guarded within the prestigious state patronage and had even the political approval as the 'official' art with its privileged highbrow associations. And it was by this and not so much by addressing and reaching the visual culture and ways of seeing of the Kerala society, that the influence of Ravi Varma was kept alive. Any movement that took the academic realism of the Ravi Varma brand as its point of departure was boud to fall through as that very style was inauthentic and unhistorical. One of the common objections raised against any divergence from the norm of academic realism, which was still believed to be profane and outrageous, was that it was only after equipping oneself with it can one forego it or that it is only after mastering its laws can one violate it. This doing-undoing formulae of modernism with recourse to the academic-realist image concept, as if a maladjustment with its norm, which was called 'distortion' lending itself to 'symbolism' and 'obscurity', was held to be the authentic approach to modernity.

The contradiction consisted in the main in the fact that the terms of reference, either as a point of convergence or of divergence, were drawn from the academic realism as popularised by Ravi Varma. The more so, when what they thought was western realism as rediscovered through the paintings of Ravi Varma, was posited as a value. For one thing, realism of the western idiom had never been a term of reference within the rationale of the Indian perceptual modes and communicative systems. "For the Indian artist realism was another set of conventions he could use alongside those he was familiar with; he never mixed it up with truth as the European did, as he could never persuade himself to believe the immutable 'thereness' of objective reality. This can be seen clearly in the work of those of our artists who are marked out as realist painters, whether it was Raja Ravi Varma, Hemen Mazumdar, Annada Bagchi, or Jamini Ganguly; at their best they brought convincing realism to the details but rarely to the whole motif."28

During the sixties the Trivandrum-centred art activity had artists like C.K. Ramakrishnan Nair (C.K.Ra), his disciple Chirayinkil Sreekantan Nair, G. Rajendran and K. Devadathan, all of whom were the former students of the Trivandrum School of Art and, self-taught Sunday painters like the late M.A.U. Menon and Malayattoor Ramakrishnan, better known as novelist, all active on the scene.

By the mid sixties several young Kerala artists on completion of their studies from the Madras School of Arts have returned home, a few chose to stay back in Madras at Cholamandal like Gopinath and, a few others like Kanai Kunhiraman and V.M. Sadanandan went abroad to London on Commonwealth scholarship and Akkitham Narayanan and Viswanathan went to Paris. Kunhiraman returned in 1969 and the others chose to stay on abroad and have settled their since. It was in this context that a group of young artists joined together in 1969 to form Kerala Institute of Arts, also called Kerala Kala Peedhom, in Ernakulam with M.V. Devan as the director, the late C.N. Sreekantan Nair as the secretary and the late M.K.K. Nair as the patron. Started in a makeshift thatched shed at Pulleppady in Ernakulam, in front of where it used to be the office of the All India Manufacturers' Association, it was a meeting place for artists and writers and it functioned with a well-meaning and cordial feeling of artistic fraternity marked by the informality and simplicity of a non-professional group. The Kala Peedhom offered short-term evening classes for mainly the dilettante art-enthusiast and the amateur artist-aspirant. It also offered an informal studio atmosphere and working conditions for visiting fellow-artists who joined it occasionally for brief spells and worked together. Kala Peedhom also undertook commissioned works as projects on which the members worked together and in fact many significant works of its members, taken individually, belong to these collective projects. Along with M.V. Devan, it had as members C.N. Karunakaran, Kanai Kunhiraman, the late A.C.K. Raja, K.M. Vasudevan Namboodiri, then illustrator of the Mathrubhumi, K.N. Damodaran, Jayapala Paniker all of whom were the alumni of the Madras School, and K.P. Soman and K.K. Rajappan who have had their formal art-education only later, the former from Baroda and the other from Madras, and also Kaladharan who got his art training from Kala Peedhom itself. Many of them were also on its teaching faculty. Akkitham Narayanan and Viswanathan both settled abroad, Gopinath in Cholamandal, Muthukoya and K. Damodaran in Delhi and many others in Madras kept up their contacts and associated with the activities of Kala Peedhom with a shared sense of common ideals and in a gesture of fellow-feeling for and allegiance to the Madras School. It was for the first time that a community of young artists, with a common attitude towards art in its theory and practice, which was rather new to the Kerala ethos, have joined together and have taken to art as a vocation and a career. They were mostly fresh from the art school and have not yet made their grade on the art scene. Kala Peedhom had a sizeable collection of works representative of other South Indian artists as well, all of which were put up for view periodically, as part of its activity. Back from England, on completion of his studies at the Slade School under Reg Butler, Kunhiraman was already working on the huge sculpture at the hill resort in Malampuzha in 1969. An uninhibitedly and frankly erotic squatting female nude figure, Yakshi took the drowsy art world of Kerala by storm. Considered by many as an artistic profanity or an outrageous aberration, it did serve its purpose—it had aroused a spate of mixed responses, being the sensationally new, and that was it. The untimely death of the young painter, T.K. Padmini in 1969 was another event that aroused much personal feelings among fellow-artists and drew critical attention to her life and work, never much known before. It was again around that time that the works of K.C.S. Paniker, as he had taken to his significant stylistic phase since 1963 represented by the series Words and Symbols, were gradually becoming noted in Kerala through his own disciples and the writings of others. One of the early critical evaluations of his work at any length was by M.V. Devan that appeared in the annual number of the Mathrubhumi daily in 1969.29 In literature, it was the time when modernism was emerging as an organised movement with its self-conscious theoretical formulations and the writers and critics entering into polemical confrontations with the elders belonging to the left-oriented erstwhile Progressive Literary Movement. The modernist writings were by and large heavily influenced by the existentialist philosophy. Many of the writers and critics who were noted exponents of the modernist trends like T.R. (T. Ramachandran), M. Thomas Mathew, M.K. Sanu etc., closely associated themselves with the art activities. This alliance of the modernist literature with the arts had lent it an intergrity of outlook and an ideological coherence and had at the same time broadened its perspective of modernism.

These artists and their activities had, in any case, signalled a significant breakthrough on the dormant and inert art scene of Kerala. For one thing, their activities had kindled a new enthusiasm among people for the visual arts and an awareness of the graphic and plastic aspects of pictorial expression. Generally lacking in exposure to paintings and the concomitant visual culture that was desensitized and apathetic in its responses, these paintings have introduced new values and a different sensibility. A discipline of expression, an authenticity of language and a certain refinement and sensitiveness of form were positive aspects that informed their work in a qualitatively different manner. Compared with the slovenly arty affectations and amateurish incompetence and a fanciful, wishy-washy notion of modernism that were prevalent then in Kerala, as was discussed earlier, the degree of formal accomplishment and virtuosity that these works displayed has to be considered as a value in itself. Strong drawing, linear fluency and a certain felicity of strokes, all with an unerring competence, have been the hallmark of these artists, no less than were they that of the Madras school in general. In short, the works of these artists had about them an aesthetic dimension derived from a conceptual coherence and a stylistic consistency in a manner hitherto unfamiliar on the Kerala art scene, and in as much as it did so, it brought it closer to the mainstream of the national art scene so as to partake of the contemporary sensibility and creative ethos.

The system of art-education characteristic of the Madras School and the tutelage of the personality-factor of K.C.S. Paniker had been, in greater or lesser degree, major influences on these artists. With Roy Chowdhury, it was not uncommon to paint in several 'styles' alongside and in spite of his adopting certain Rodinesque aspects reduced to textural mannerisms, his sculptural idiom hadwith neoclassicism in its heroic affectations and rhetorical grossness. For the artist that he was, it cannot be said with any amount of precision that his art was the expression of deeply sustained convictions or well-thought out concepts of art. Unlike him, K.C.S. Paniker who took over as the principal in 1958, was an artist with an integrity of outlook and coherence of artistic ideas and was alive to and abreast of the movements on the national scene. He was vocal enough to express his views, through his many writings, on the different aspects of contemporary Indian art. It was also the time when the art institutions of Santiniketan, Baroda, Calcutta and to a lesser degree, of Banares and New Delhi had become important centres of art activity and had emerged as distinct schools with their own identity. Following the formation of the Central Lalit Kala Akademy in 1954, Akademies on the state level were already functioning by the late '50s and there were the annual exhibitions of the central and state Akademies and by 1968 the International Triennale was on. There were a lot of outlets for cultural contacts with the west by way of travels and studies abroad, either sponsored by the state or through the promotional schemes of other cultural agencies. There was much enthusiasm and exhilaration in art activities on the national scene. In this context, as one whose individual status and the vicissitudes of career are closely aligned to the ongoing changes and movements on the national art scene, Paniker kept himself close to it and through him the Madras School found its place in the main stream of the national art. Thus as its identity got recognized in its own right and that, in turn, gave it a contemporary national perspective, the immediate impact of this phenomenon was felt in the art-climate of Kerala too, especially with those who owed allegiance to the Madras School. This period also coincided with a significant breakthrough in the career of K.C.S. Paniker, starting with his series Words and Symbols in 1963.

The early water colours and oils of Paniker done in the fifties are landscapes of the Kerala countryside that are redolent of a robust and earthy sense of the people and their life and have nothing of the romanticised picturesequeness of some idyllic land of enchantment. They have a characteristic feeling for the warm, sunny air and chequered shadows and the foliage streaked with the gleam of the bright sun rendered in lucid and fluent washes, that precludes anything impressionistic about it. He gradually takes to the figural imagery with themes of piety and compassion, some drawn from the Christian or the Buddhist religious lore. Speaking of his work of the period upto 1950, he states: "Ravi Varma, Lady Pentuland, Cotman, Frank Brangwyn, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Matisse, the Fauves and so on, many have come and gone by as major influences one after the other. At times I used to be in the grips of several at once."30 He goes on to say how around the '50s he got disillusioned with the whole range of western modes of pictorial expression that he had been harping on and how affinities more with neoclassicism in its heroic affectations and rhetorical grossness. For the artist that he was, it cannot be said with any amount of precision that his art was the expression of deeply sustained convictions or well-thought out concepts of art. Unlike him, K.C.S. Paniker who took over as the principal in 1958, was an artist with an integrity of outlook and coherence of artistic ideas and was alive to and abreast of the movements on the national scene. He was vocal enough to express his views, through his many writings, on the different aspects of contemporary Indian art. It was also the time when the art institutions of Santiniketan, Baroda, Calcutta and to a lesser degree, of Banares and New Delhi had become important centres of art activity and had emerged as distinct schools with their own identity. Following the formation of the Central Lalit Kala Akademy in 1954, Akademies on the state level were already functioning by the late '50s and there were the annual exhibitions of the central and state Akademies and by 1968 the International Triennale was on. There were a lot of outlets for cultural contacts with the west by way of travels and studies abroad, either sponsored by the state or through the promotional schemes of other cultural agencies. There was much enthusiasm and exhilaration in art activities on the national scene. In this context, as one whose individual status and the vicissitudes of career are closely aligned to the ongoing changes and movements on the national art scene, Paniker kept himself close to it and through him the Madras School found its place in the main stream of the national art. Thus as its identity got recognized in its own right and that, in turn, gave it a contemporary national perspective, the immediate impact of this phenomenon was felt in the art-climate of Kerala too, especially with those who owed allegiance to the Madras School. This period also coincided with a significant breakthrough in the career of K.C.S. Paniker, starting with his series Words and Symbols in 1963.

The early water colours and oils of Paniker done in the fifties are landscapes of the Kerala countryside that are redolent of a robust and earthy sense of the people and their life and have nothing of the romanticised picturesequeness of some idyllic land of enchantment. They have a characteristic feeling for the warm, sunny air and chequered shadows and the foliage streaked with the gleam of the bright sun rendered in lucid and fluent washes, that precludes anything impressionistic about it. He gradually takes to the figural imagery with themes of piety and compassion, some drawn from the Christian or the Buddhist religious lore. Speaking of his work of the period upto 1950, he states: "Ravi Varma, Lady Pentuland, Cotman, Frank Brangwyn, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Matisse, the Fauves and so on, many have come and gone by as major influences one after the other. At times I used to be in the grips of several at once."30 He goes on to say how around the '50s he got disillusioned with the whole range of western modes of pictorial expression that he had been harping on and how the ten years following '53 had been a period of integral synthesis of Ajanta and Van Gogh. In the water colours of the early fifties like Christ among the People, Lazurus, Blessed are the Peace Givers, could be seen a pronounced affinity for the linear conventions of the Indian mural tradition, and a post-Impressionist figure concept but with a densely sculpturesque volume as is characteristic of Indian post-classical art. Compared with certain other works of around the same time or immediately preceding it, like Peter's Denial (tempera, 1949), Orange Canal (oil on paper, 1952), Market (oil drawing on paper, 1953), Before the Maternity Ward (tempera, 1950) etc., the structured and closed composition and spatial articulation loosens to give way to a figuration that is defined by linear accents and a non-planar space. A comparison of an oil drawing on paper, Market (1953), though its lines are elliptical and open-contoured, with the drawing in a work like Lazurus or Blessed are the Peace-givers or Christ among the People, would prove the point. Colour either in its sensuous evocativeness or emotive overtones is subdued. But they are all suffused with a warm human concern and compassion. He gradually moves on to a different kind of figuration with diminutive torso and large-sized visage, at times in foetal disposition, which he arrives at as a personal iconography for the image of the archetypal man. It has rather obvious affinities with a figure-concept that is a derivative of Jamini Roy and that was in use with variable adaptations by many artists since the forties. At a time when 'Indianness' and 'Indian identity' were much talked about, such a figure type was believed to be embodying idealisation, stylisation and simplification of form that supposedly characterise all Indian art. Paintings like Mother and Child (oil, 1954), Woman Taken in Adultery (oil, 1956), Mother (oil drawing, 1956), Victory (oil, 1957), Adam (oil, 1958), Red Interior (oil, 1960), Garden (oil, 1960), Toilet (oil, 1961), Two Virgins (tempera, 1961), Lumbini (oil, 1963) etc., belong to this period which is one of the by now well-known two phases. He shows a discerning eye for the linear contouring of volume of the Ajanta murals which he combined with a stark and taut binding line. Their spatial organization, too, has affinities with the characteristic Indian pictorial tradition, in foregrounding the figures frontally against a non-recessive ground.

Then by the early sixties there is a sudden shift in the direction of his stylistic evolution, which marks the beginning of his celebrated series Words and Symbols, in 1963.

Those days Paul Klee used to be much in the air. Egyptian paintings and hieroglyphs had a great influence on him; it was Paul Klee who had aroused great expectations in me. I felt it was Paul Klee, more than Picasso or Braque, who is closer to us. His lines had a lightness, they were fresh and free.

Again, the small world that I have built up with great toil had caved in on me. I was at a loss how to go about the lesson from Klee, beginning from scratch. I didn't feel inclined to copy him. That would be a disgrace to the master.31

He goes on to say further about this conflict and reveals himself that it was a page from a school boy's arithmetic workbook that motivated him to think in a different direction.32

This reference, however, to children's ideographic representations does not seem all that fortuitous. Considering his very first painting in the series, The Fruit Vendor (oil, 1963)33, he seems to be working away from the massing of the figuration against the given spatial orientation in con-centric or ec-centric compositional patterns and instead, to disperse the mass and to disengage it from spatial reference. He was using scribbles and scrawls that were reminiscent of the cursive Malayalam script but made illegible, interspersed with characters of an apparent pictographic manner, organized into a design on the picture plane. The use of such signs as are associated with astrology and the division of the picture plane into tabular patterns at once evoke associations of some occult incantatory abracadabra and astroglyphic graphology. At the initial phase the use of colour was, of necessity, muted. The apparently 'symbolic' pictographs he interspersed among the scribbles were reductive, yet amusingly homologous representations, lacking a personal authenticity as images, as for example, the human figure, the 'drummer' that is ever so recurrent, the bull, the bird, the fish, etc. These ungainly signatory motifs placed within coloured areas among bars of scribbling and the slanting or sweeping lines cutting across the picture plane, hardly ever resolve themselves into an image-field gestalt. The result, the associative correspondences of the 'Indian' motifs show through all too easily as they sort ill with and finally turn redundant within the rationale of its own pictorial syntax. The motif does hardly metamorphose into the image and their explicit signatory denotation stops short of pictographic connotation. Their reductive signatory manner, as distinct from the evocativeness of summary abstraction, borders on the incongruous. A look at any of the paintings of the sixties or of early seventies, like the Drummer in the Thiruvananthapuram gallery or the Words and Symbols of 1971 in the National Gallery, New Delhi, would suffice to testify this. That may be why when many of his own spokesmen-critics were reading metaphysical profundity into those works, their western counterparts could only see 'its delicate visual wit'.34

This he gets over only late in his career, during the early years of the seventies. Here he either projects shapes and scrawls against a clarified field with geometric stability and congruity, as in Yellow Picture (oil, 1976). Or, the reductive motifs of former years are transformed into sensory imagery within a palpable colour field of spatial suggestiveness, where the colour itself assumes a warmth and sensuous evocativeness and the scrawls become sparing. Paintings like Crow (oil on anodized aluminium, 1973), Tomb Stones (oil on canvas, 1975), Picture in Orange, Red Picture (oil, 1974), Dog (oil, 1973), Village Game, The River etc., would bear this out.

When in the period of his Garden series, the theory and practice of his art come as close together as could be, their concurrence that accords a personal validity and authenticity to the work of that period does not seem to hold good during the period of Words and Symbols. "The overall impression of these paintings in my opinion, is the pleasure created by well-organized divisions or colour diagrams consisting of scrawls and magical signs when seen with their contemporary Indianness and, in a remote sense, with the clear modernism of Paul Klee."35 As may be seen, Paniker has moved from his position of the preceding decade when his concept of contemporary Indianness was with recourse to the Ajanta murals and that of 'clear modernism' was to be drawn from Van Gogh. Now, correspondingly they are magical signs, astrological charts and scribblings on the one hand and, Paul Klee and calligraphy, on the other.

The running theme of the history of modern Indian thought and culture can be taken to be the conflict between tradition and modernity and this ongoing conflict was felt, internalized and resolved in quite different terms through the successive decades. During the latter half of the nineteenth century the cultural resolution of this conflict was by the interpolation of 'modern' (universalist-western) referents for an extra-culturally evoked identity that can be absorbed, integrated and legitimized within the 'Indian' (textual-Brahmanic) framework in terms of a supposed correspondence between the two. But this form of cultural resolution was the expression of a historically generated ideology of a particular class of that period—the westernised emergent middle class. Many artists had partaken of the expression of this ideology in an attempt to identify with a certain modern vision of their context, and had transcended it by giving expression to its deeper contradictions. Though the questions of Indian identity, of tradition and its relation to modernity, the image and role of the artist and the terms of his value world were all defined with resort to premises located within this context of cultural resolution, they had been felt and internalised by artists differently over the decades. But to think and talk of them as existing in the same form as they made themselves felt a century back is only to accept those answers as providing a stance for the by now institutionalised role of the artist. Thus when a historically generated ideology is reduced to jargon and hardened into an overstated stance, it can only produce works that are inauthentic and false. This make-believe and rigged-up stance is what they surrender to as an easy way out for a subjective set of orientations for the institutionalised role of the 'artist' to be reflected in a 'style.' This fallacy still continues within the school-specific idioms of provincial modernism by making the most of a trendy apotheosis of the folkish exotica or the tantric bizarre, whether called so or not, under various guises. All these do not amount to more than tricks of the trade, deploying a system of 'indigenous' motifs, images and signs having some attributed cross-connections with a concocted obscurantism labelled 'Indianness' on the one hand, and with unmistakable formal approximations to whatever is the current western vogue. The misplaced motivations of such a mystique of modernism could only evoke the pale abstractions of an irreality (mythical/magical abracadabra) through stylistic conceits that were a corruption of the premodern symbol-manipulation within the nationalistic legitimising discourse. Though Paniker's own relation to the so-called tantric is rather ambivalent, as he denies any such attributes to his motifs and signs, that he employs those conventions and motifs having apparent associations of the 'indigenous' with their wonted cult values of myth and mystery, does not seem all fortuitous. The same ambivalence could be seen in his relation to the series Words and Symbols. When late in his life, in the paintings of the seventies, there is a stylistic change, discussed elsewhere, marked by a sparing use of the scrawls and chart-like divisions and signatory motifs, correspondingly, he titles them individually as if to dissociate them from the series and its previous attributes.

There are some similarities that come up to notice in the case of these two landmarks in the history of contemporary Kerala art—Ravi Varma and K.C.S. Paniker. First is that both of them did not relate their art to or draw on the living presence of an ongoing tradition of Kerala visual culture. This is partly accounted for by the fact that whatever tradition there was, was discontinuous and disrupted which is discussed elsewhere. Second is that the active part of the career of both is mostly spent outside the home state and it is a feed back of the recognition and reputation that they have earned for themselves elsewhere that was felt in Kerala. It means, on the one hand that both did not have to face the challenges of taking to the profession of art, subject to the social conditions of the state. On the other, it also means that whatever influence they have had was not by directly touching upon the visual habits and visual culture of Kerala. Thirdly, their art in a more fundamental conceptual aspect had a common ground, however much stylistically far apart they are. For an artist like Ravi Varma the conflict between tradition and modernity hardly existed other than as one which could be naively reconciled between a modern style (western academic realism) and an Indian content (mythological and religious themes). Not quite unlike is the case of an artist like K.C.S. Paniker for whom the conflict no longer exists other than as a simple stylistic adjustment between modern idioms (gestural calligraphy and postpainterly abstraction) and the western notions of an esoteric and exotic Indian content (astrological charts, magical signs and obscure scrawls).

It is in this context that the coming together of a group of young artists, whose attitude towards art and style had been largely formed under the tutelage of K.C.S. Paniker, to establish Kerala Kala Peedhom in Ernakulam becomes all the more relevant. When they chose to stay back in Kerala and take to art as a vocation, they had to relate themselves to and address the contemporary society and reach their spectators. They had to find for themselves the image and role of the artist as it is socially defined and meet the demands of a practising professional. They had to identify with a vision of reality concerning the society through their chosen vocation of the artist and conversely, by seeking for this activity a place in meaningful relation to the scheme of values of the society, they had to redefine their career consciousness and professional identity. That they were the first to face such challenges here becomes all the more important considering the general apathy and indifference that the Kerala society had always shown for the visual arts. The art market and the promotional outfits of the art establishment of post-Independence India can be seen to be progressively urban-centred in which sense too, Kerala could not offer a conducive atmosphere.

Kala Peedhom obviously was inspired by the practical model of Cholamandal, the artists' village in Madras founded by K.C.S. Paniker. The first of its kind as an artists' village, Cholamandal was not a group that came together on the shared common convictions of a world view or concept of art as, for one thing, those aspects were of little consequence to the anti-intellectual, anti-rational make up of the Madras school. When they were turning out stylised images of Hindu deities in batik or repousse craft, it did not pose any contradiction of value to them as something at variance with their own art. Instead, their art that was making a fetish of tradition and turning out exportable versions of that venerable curio of an Indian exotica, did only presuppose the possibility of its craft-production. But emulating the model of Cholamandal did not prove a workable prospect in the Kerala context. And naturally enough, they had to depend on commissioned works as a practical alternative. Such works that Kala Peedhom had undertaken include the paintings, stained glasses, murals and sculptures done at FACT, Ambalamedu; Greater Cochin Development Authority Head Quarters; T.K. Divakaran Memmorial Park at Kollam as well as those at a few residential houses, theatres and hotels like Hotel Karthika in Kollam, Kalpaka in Kozhikode and the erstwhile Hotel Nikunjam in Thiruvananthapuram. In the case of Kunhiraman, practically all the sculptures of that period were done as part of the collective projects of Kala Peedhom, and they are perhaps the most significant in the whole body of his output. In the case of painters, the murals, reliefs and stained glasses they have done are in the manner of ornate designs or assemblages of knick-knacks that are more in keeping with the idea of interior decoration than of art.

Generally speaking, it was a figure-type derived from Paniker's pre-Words and Symbols phase with enlarged head and diminutive torso with some stylizations superimposed on it, that found much favour with these artists. Devan whose output was rather limited and sporadic, has taken to architecture in the latter day. After collaborating with the noted Kerala-settled, British architect Laurie Baker for sometime, Devan had set out on his own. Though the same sort of stylised figuration was what characterized his early paintings, he moves on to abstraction by the sixties as in Ovation, Existence and Essence, etc. A figure concept derived from the summary form and sweeping linear simplifications of Jamini Roy of the forties and corresponding to the notions of stylization and idealization as exemplifying the much-wonted 'Indianness', was the stock-in-trade of the Madras school. A variation of this was what was seen in the early works of the late A.C.K. Raja and C.N. Karunakaran, as much as in those of the Tamil artists like Santanraj, Antony Das and Adimoolam, among others. Formally, it is the pronounced predilection for linearity and for composite design-making that accounts for the characteristics of Karunakaran's paintings. But even his otherwise masterly linear simplifications become redundant as the line sheds its piquancy, tending to revel in a sort of ornate dalliance where the figure almost gets overburdened by a fine filigree of curvilinear design extravaganza. Devoid of any ideational reference or creative motivation, the maze of his rambling linear convolutions and the effusiveness of his linear flourishes, tend to become mannered and mawkish. The case of Karunakaran is one of an extraordinarily gifted artist becoming the captive of his own linear virtuosity bordering on the slick and the effete. A.C.K. Raja's early water colours were also not free from a certain mawkish and languid stylization. Raja had always had a penchant for the water colour and the miniature format. He had done a series of pretty, little water colours in lucid, radiant hues which are subtly lyrical metascapes. Given to ruthless introspection and a turbulent inner discord, Raja had a head-on confrontation with his own cherished value world from which he struggled to come out. Always divided against and at war with himself, he had his creative energies frittered away in a spell of political and cultural activism. He died in 1985 of cancer. But all along he had been toiling silently at his oil canvases that he had turned to lately, in an attempt to create an art that is an emphatic and loud overstatement, in terms of conscious contra-aesthetic signification. A series of unfinished canvases is what he had left behind of this phase in his career. In the few paintings that Kunhiraman has done early in his career, it offers a study in contrast of his characteristic themes and motifs as they are sculpturally realized. A sequel to his own sculptures, these paintings are made up of the basic units of his sculptural language, the square, the crescent, the circle, the oval and the three projections. In their graphic, two-dimensional expression they betray their unmistakable links with the trendy tradition-mongering that made a fetish of these Indian signs and motifs. But the similarity stops short there and the differences are perhaps more note worthy and make those sculptures what they are. In the best of his sculptures, those signs and motifs are organically interfused in a cumulative sculptural articulation, that draws on the imagistic structures that inhabit the world of representations where collective meanings are played out. Thus the personal iconography and imagery which form an abstract sculptural configuration are rooted in the ethos of regional nativism with which the experience of modernity seeks to be reconciled.

A few early works apart, the underlying motif that is so central to his oeuvre takes on an ancestral-totemic image of the elemental earth-spirit and the mother-principle. This image bodies forth from a nexus of emotive and mythical undertones of the native ritual lore and communal cult-practices of fertility and phallic worship, cosmological notions and creation myths. It is this feeling for the earthy communal life and proto-classical archaism of the essentially north Kerala air and ethos, as distinct from the canonical-scriptural version of popular Hinduism and its concomitant, the extra-cultural abstraction of 'Indianness', that informs his work. The mother-archetype that is central to Kunhiraman's sculptural thinking graduates into a total metaphor that tries to sublimate his own conflicts and contradictions on to the level of a personal philosophic absolute that lends his work a redemptive austerity. Variously called as Yakshi, Murti, Amma or Fertility, the imagery and iconography that is fundamental to the corpus of his work draws on a complex visual repertory of the forms, costumes, masks and rhythm of the ritual dances and temple pageants of north Kerala, the structural disposition of pillar and beam of its village houses and their contrasts between frontal planes and volumes of shade, their turned pillars and so on. And equally, in terms of form and language, though his work has affinities in various aspects and in varying degrees with modern western sculpture like those of Lipchitz, Kenneth Armitage, Henry Moore, Brancusi, Maiotti and Reg Butler, they are subsumed in a cumulative sculptural articulation more than as a matter of synthesis. Not given much to any play with solids and voids or textural effects or modulations as is common in the western idiom (and by extension, in many Indian sculptures, as well), Kunhiraman's concept of sculpture as a simple monolith that grows in on itself to emerge into the closed volume of a non-planar and frontal mass, is essentially cognate with the Indian plastic tradition. Particularly so in its disposition of the mass, distribution of accents and the rhythm of axial flexions. Some of his important sculptures are Amma (copper relief, 1962), Amma (cement concrete, 1962, now probably lost), Fertility (cement concrete, 1971, FACT, Ambalamedu), Mukkolaperumal (cement concrete, 1974, Greater Cochin Development Authority, Cochin).

In the recent years, inspired by an urge to seek a more valid environmental basis and public context for his art, Kunhiraman has been striving to reconcile the challenges of a personal creative idiom with the demands of a functional aesthetic. The result, which is yet to be seen, would depend on how far he can create an art that, while radically attuned to its changing social environment, is at the same time rooted in his perceptions of these changes.

The pattern of Kala Peedhom of the initial phase did not continue for long, as most of its artist-members had drifted away from it. Kunhiraman and Raja joined the newly started College of Fine Arts and Karunakaran had proceeded to establish his own gallery called Chitrakootam. The other artists who are active around Cochin are M.R.D. Dathan and M.R. Baburam. Apart from the designing of exhibition pavilions that they undertake jointly or individually, Dathan has been doing murals and reliefs and, Baburam painting in a semi-abstract idiom. Some of the other artists like Jayapala Paniker, B.D. Dathan, M. Sanatanan, Kaladharan, K.M. Vasudevan Namboodiri, V.S. Balakrishnan and K.K. Marar should also be noted for their work during this period. Among them, Vasudevan Namboodiri (known as Artist Namboodiri) is the draughtsman par excellence in popular estimation in Kerala, as his illustrations in Malayalam periodicals are phenomenally popular with large sections of the reading public. Though their intrinsic value may still be arguable, his drawings that show an uncanny sureness of stroke and an unerring instinct for the human form, character types and physiognomic features have, as far as they go, contributed to a widely felt sensitiveness to the finer aspects of drawing. So much so that both his figure types and his wiry, bristling penmanship have almost become a norm in this particular genre, of which there are many imitators.

What the activities of Kala Peedhom introduced on the Kerala art scene was a brand of provincial modernism as was characteristic of the Madras school in general. This period also witnessed the ringing in of modernism in Malayalam literature with its heavy existentialist hang over and its greater openness and susceptibility to western thoughts and idioms of expression. In the continuum that existed in the social fabric between the post-traditional material conditions and the premodern belief systems, when the modernist project presented itself primarily as a literary agenda which itself was located within a kind of cultural bilingualism, it created a curiously outlandish micropolitan intellectual environment. As modernism was not understood in the context of historically generated superstructures, subject to the economic determinations of modernity, it was only seen in its cognitive intimations in the narratives of culture, which were held to provide the referents for an absolutistic and universal ideal. When this 'ideal' was re-read from the Franco-American metanarratives of modernism, it was as a formalistic grand design in which all national cultural differences were to be subsumed. As the modernist discourse in Kerala in the seventies and eighties was still located within the cultural bilingualism and its decontextualised premises, it became the professionalised single constituency project of the literary institution in collaboration with the media-culture industry for which it came in handy for keeping up its obligatory topicality or 'periodicalness', so to say. The modernism that thus came about at the interface between the literary institution and the print-trading culture industry, was more a matter of the general thematics of 'culture', thematising the concerns around the topicality of an 'ideal' and in the process giving currency to a rhetorics comprising image/meaning inversions, paradoxical juxtapositions, 'metaphysical conceits' and so on that played up the bizarre and the morbid through disaster motifs and dislocation effects. It was also the time when an emergent class of professional intelligentsia attached to various establishments like the schools, colleges, akademies, broadcasting stations, the press and the film industry, came on the scene. They were the professionals of the culture industry and the guardians of the institutionalised Art—Art with a capital A. Painting was subsumed in this cultural fetishism and accommodated within the topicality of the literate-media sensibility. What such an art, which was only an appendage to literature and which could not divest itself of the verbal associations and semantic experience, could ever aspire to do, was to fit into the space assigned it by the subjective and impressionistic-descriptive writings of the literary journalists. A new art-movement is much dependent on the innate propensities of the language of its society for clarity or otherwise of thought and feeling and the characteristic thought-patterns that the society accordingly habituates itself to. A look at the 'literary criticism' of paintings of the seventies would go a long way in answering the course painting took in the following decade. It is also interesting to note that a situation where these three factors—the literate-media sensibility, the verbal paradigm and the micropolitanism of cultural atmosphere—come into active play, can be most congenial to a certain stage of development of the filmic medium as it did prove in the context of Kerala.q

Notes and References

1 M. Raja Raja Varma Raja, M.A.B.L

"The Stage in Kerala", Selected Essays, Trivandrum, 1940, p.48.

2 From the letter reproduced in the preface to the eighth edition (1898), Sakoontala or The Lost Ring, translated by Sir Monier-Williams (reprint, Tulsi Publishing House, New Delhi, 1979), pp. viii-ix.

3 Stella Kramrisch, Dravida and Kerala in the Art of Travancore, Artibus Asiae, 1953, pp. 34-36. 4. Clifford Reis Jones, "Dhulicitra: Historical Perspectives on Art and Ritual", Kaladarsana: American Studies in the Art of India, ed. Joanna G. Williams, Oxford and IBH, 1981, pp. 69-75.

5 Kapila Vatsyayan, The Arts of Kerala Kshetram, Tripunitura, Kerala, 1989, p. 11.

6 J.C. Heesterman, "India and the Inner Conflict of Tradition", foot note 18, Daedalus, New York: Winter, 1973.

7 After quoting Sir George Birdwood from The Industrial Arts of India, Nagam Aiya goes on to say: "Under the English rule, however, which has imparted peace and knowledge to the millions of India, painting like all other arts has begun its course on truly rational lines..." Travancore State Manual, Vol. III, Thiruvananthapuram, 1906, p. 263.

8 K.M.Govi, Adimudranam Bharathathilum Malayalathilum, (Malayalam), Kerala Sahitya Akademi, 1998, p. 140; p. 169.

9 Govi, ibid, pp. 152-156.

10 The Travancore Administration Report, 1862-63 notes that a School of Industrial Arts has been "recently established" by the Government.

11 V. Nagam Aiya, Travancore State Manual, Vol. II, p. 485.

12 V. Nagam Aiya, Travancore State Manual, Vol.III, p. 286.

13 Travancore Administration Report 1886-87, p.1333

14 Travancore Administration Report 1888-89, p.485

15 Travancore Administration Report 1888-89, p.156

16 Travancore Administration Report 1895-96, p.162.

17 K.G. Subramanian, "Modern Art in India and the West", Moving Focus, New Delhi, 1978, p. 18.

18 Artist P.J. Cherian, Ente Kalajeevitham, (Malayalam), Kottayam, 1964, p. 56-59.

19 Kulapati Jayaram Cousins, "The Art Renaissance in Travancore", Travancore Information and Listener, Vol. III, No. 12, August 1943, p. 18-24.

20 Cousins, ibid, p. 23.

21 Letter from Ravi Varma dated Trivandrum, 31st August, 1895 to Sankarasubba Iyer, Dewan of Tiruvitamkur. The Archives Treasury, State Archives, Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram, 1992, p. 180-182.

22 K.G. Subramanian, op.cit, p.18.

23 H.H. Maharani Setu Parvati Bayi, "Future Role of Universities", Travancore Information, Vol.III, No.5, January 1943, p. 16.

24 Musicians of the stature of Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer (the then Principal, Swati Thirunal Academy of Music) and G.N. Balasubramaniam were the asthana vidwans of the court. Since the starting of the Trivandrum Broadcasting Station in March 1943, they used to be frequently featured in the broadcasts that were only once in a week on Friday evenings from 7.45 to 9.30. But they were not from the home state.

25 M. Raja Raja Varma Raja, M.A.B.L., "Our National Games", Selected Essays, Trivandrum, 1940,

p. 132.

26 Though from Karnataka, Hebbar mostly worked in Bombay which fact again appears significant.

27 S.T. Coleridge, Biographia Literaria, Rev.ed, Dent, 1965, p. 167.

28 K.G. Subramanian, The Living Tradition: Perspectives on Modern Indian Art,Chapter 2, Calcutta, 1987.

29 This was later reprinted: M.V. Devan, "K.C.S. Paniker-Oru Padhanam", Sameeksha, No. 16, 1971,

p. 21-39.
30 K.C.S. Paniker, "Why do I paint?" (Malayalam) Sameeksha Quarterly, No. 16, July-September 1971, Madras (translated by the author).

31 K.C.S. Paniker, ibid.

32 It is also said that these were "suggested by a mundane visual reference _ the defaced surfaces of railway wagons", Geeta Kapur, Pictorial Space, New Delhi, 1978, p. 5-6.

33 Another painting of the same year Lumbini would by contrast, make this clear.

34 From a review in the Sunday Telegraph, quoted in one of his brochures (undated).
35 K.C.S. Paniker, op.cit.

Illistration of Adhyatma Ramayana, c.1900
 
T.K.Padmini, Dying Bird, oil on canvas

Ravi Varma, Shantanoo & Matsyagandha, 1890
 
Kanayi Kunhiraman, Fertility,1971

K.C.S. Paniker, Dog:1973,oil on canvas