In an attempt to keep our content accurate and representative of evolving scholarship, we invite you to give feedback on any information in this article.

    This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.


    ARTICLE

    Bazaar Paintings

    Map Academy

    Articles are written collaboratively by the EIA editors. More information on our team, their individual bios, and our approach to writing can be found on our About pages. We also welcome feedback and all articles include a bibliography (see below).

    A type of early modern art from India, bazaar paintings emerged as a hybrid form of commercial art. They were created in large numbers for European expatriates and visitors to India, as well as for local urban consumers. Bazaar paintings are characterised by a combination of features and conventions of the Western Academic style with Indian miniature painting or other local traditions, and depict a range of religious and secular subjects. The two most recognised categories of bazaar paintings are Company School and Kalighat painting, which differ considerably in their style, treatment and subject matter. Company paintings served as a visual record of colonial territories through depictions of monuments, landscapes, flora and fauna, people and their occupations, and social and cultural activities. On the other hand, Kalighat paintings typically acted as both religious souvenirs and social commentaries. Patna and Calcutta (now Kolkata) were important centres for this market-driven art in the nineteenth century. The practice also took root in other existing centres of traditional art, such as Madras (now Chennai), Mysore (now Mysuru), and the Maratha court of Tanjore (now Thanjavur).

    The Persian word bazaar translates to “market.” During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as global exchanges with India expanded, bazaars became spaces that connected European traders with Indian consumers, creditors and producers. Through this period, bazaars were impacted by a series of consequential changes that impacted the production and consumption of art objects. These were the growth of the British East India Company, an increasing presence of European employees of the Company throughout India, and an influx of European pictures and techniques, including mass reproduction technologies such as lithography. These factors combined to create a new class of patrons and methods for Indian artists, at the same time that patronage from Indian courts was declining.

    Indian artists thus began to adopt European styles and aesthetics, catering to the tastes and appetites of their new clientele. The resulting hybrid style, called the Company School, is characterised by the use of watercolour, linear perspective, and shading. Early works within this genre were dependent on individual commissions. However, the growing demand in the local and tourist market and the increasing familiarity of artists with Western modes of representation led several of them to operate their own workshops. Successful artists often sold their works directly, or through established bazaars and trade networks. Particularly popular were sets of paintings depicting fairs and marketplaces, as well as local costumes and traditional occupations. Known as firka sets, these were often sold as tourist mementos.

    Another category of bazaar paintings is Kalighat painting. These paintings were also sold as tourist and pilgrimage souvenirs, but usually from the alleyways in the Kalighat area and from other temples in Calcutta, rather than from workshops run by professional artists with courtly pedigrees. The paintings, originally executed as palm-leaf scrolls, were later produced on inexpensive paper with the addition of distinctively European characteristics such as watercolours, shading for volume, and three-quarters profiles. Although generally linked to Hindu temples, the visual repertoire of Kalighat paintings included themes from other religions, such as Islam, as well as secular subjects. These included interpretive depictions of current events, Bengali proverbs, vignettes from contemporary literature and popular fiction, and satirical visual commentaries on the cosmopolitan culture and lifestyles of the emerging middle and upper classes of the city.

    The commercial success of these forms of painting, followed by a rise in the popularity of similarly themed prints, resulted in indigenous presses emerging in these and other colonial centres. Bazaar paintings began to decline towards the late nineteenth century following the advent of photography in India, which superseded painting as both a commercial and colonial asset.

     

     
    Bibliography

    Archer, William G. Bazaar Paintings of Calcutta. London: Victoria and Albert Museums, 1953. https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.76475

    Chanda-Vaz, Urmi. “How the Indian everyman became a subject of art.” Scroll.in, January 6, 2019. https://scroll.in/magazine/906443/how-the-indian-everyman-became-a-subject-of-art

    Google Arts and Culture. n.d. “Indian Miniature Paintings: The Company School and Popular Prints.” Accessed May 7, 2021. https://artsandculture.google.com/exhibit/indian-miniature-paintings-the-company-school-and-popular-prints-academy-of-fine-arts-and-literature/CAKCEmjVNnveJg?hl=en

    Jain, Kajri. “Mass reproduction and the art of the bazaar.” In The Cambridge Companion to Modern Indian Culture, edited by Vasudha Dalmia and Rashmi Sadana, 184–205. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012.

    Sardar, Marika. “Company Painting in Nineteenth-Century India.” Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 2004. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/cpin/hd_cpin.htm

    Shukla, Vandana. “From Bazaar to art colleges: ‘The Printed Picture’ traces four centuries of printmaking in India.” Firstpost, October 21, 2018. https://www.firstpost.com/india/from-bazaar-to-art-colleges-the-printed-picture-traces-four-centuries-of-printmaking-in-india-5417851.html

    Yang, Andrew A. Bazaar India: Markets, Society and the Colonial State in Bihar. Oakland: University of California Press, 1999.

    Feedback
     
    Related Content
    loading