Urbanisation of Indian Art
Woodcut Prints of Nineteenth Century Calcutta, edited by As hit Paul, Seagull, Calcutta, 1983, 128 pp., Rs. 200
IN most countries printmaking evolved as a conjuncture of social-historical forces, that gave rise to a mass urban demand for pictures. It happened in Edo (Tokyo), for instance, from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries. The Ukiyo-e prints appeared and developed during two hundred and fifty years, ushering in a new art-form and a new kind of aesthetic experience that common people could patronise and enjoy. These prints came in direct response to the demands of a fast-changing society and new economic formations.
In Europe the art of printmaking came much earlier. But during the nineteenth century etchings and lithographs gained new heights, developing as a veritable political force in the hands of Goya (1746-1828) and Daumier (1808-1879). The historical situation in Europe, during this turbulent period, had given rise to a demand for such prints, and the artists rose to the occasion.
A substantial part of the 'proto-history' of the art of printmaking in India has to be traced to the rise of woodcut prints, Kalighat pats and lithographs in nineteenth century Calcutta, viewed and analysed within the contexts of urbanisation and its consequent changes in the culture and the behaviour-pattern of people. Woodcuts and pats had briefly bridged the gap between dying native pictorial traditions on the 'vulgar level (in the original Latin meaning of the word, which is not derogatory), and the hazy bank across a century-and-three-decades from where modem Indian painting and printmaking took off.
Journal of Arts and Ideas 5