Bombay Art Society
A fine art society established in Mumbai (formerly Bombay) in 1888, the Bombay Art Society (now renamed to the Mumbai Art Society) was initiated to support artists and to encourage the formation of an audience for art in the city. Its popularity made it a model for other fine art societies across India, including the Indian Association for the Promotion of Fine Arts in 1892, and the Art Society of India in 1918.
The society initially functioned in tandem with the Sir JJ School of Art, Mumbai, and maintained close ties with it. Its exhibitions gradually came to be organised at the Bombay Town Hall (now the Asiatic Society of India). From 1952 onwards, exhibitions were hosted at the Jehangir Art Gallery.
The British governors of the city of Mumbai actively patronised the Society, as did Indian princes from the states of Baroda, Gwalior and Bhavnagar. The leadership and presidency of the society were mostly British until 1936, when the Parsi industrialist Sir Cowasji Jehangir became president.
The Society’s first exhibition was organised on February 19, 1889. Subsequent exhibitions grew to become major social events. Efforts were made to not only exhibit and reward art, but also to ensure that a wider cross-section of the public could view it. As such, provisions for Indian women to visit in purdah were instituted, among other special arrangements.
While the Society largely exhibited the work of British expatriates in its early years, some Indian artists began to be showcased after MV Dhurandhar won the prize for the best black and white work in 1892. However, it was only from the 1920s that the number of Indian artworks on display began to consistently increase. The Society’s exhibitions helped launch the careers of many important painters, including SL Haldankar, MF Pithawala, Amrita Sher-Gil, and MF Husain.
Of the many fine art societies initiated by the British colonial administration through the nineteenth century, the Bombay Art Society is the only one which continues to be active. Headquartered in Bandra in a building opened to the public in 2011, the Society is now operated by the Government of Maharashtra. It continues to host annual exhibitions and present awards. In addition, it also serves as an exhibition venue and as a centre of learning, offering short-term courses in drawing and painting as well as film-making. In 2011, it was officially renamed the Mumbai Art Society.
“About.” Bombay Art Society. Accessed April 7, 2022. https://bombayartsociety.org/a-brief-history/
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