Progressive Painters’ Association, Madras
Established in 1944 by the artist and art educator KCS Paniker, the Progressive Painters’ Association of Madras (now Chennai) began as a platform to collate, display and sell the works of young artists from the Government College of Fine Arts, Chennai, known previously as the Madras College of Art.
The association emerged in the 1940s, alongside other progressive art groups in the country such as the Progressive Artists’ Group, Calcutta (1942) and the Progressive Artists’ Group, Bombay (1947). As with the Madras Art Movement of the 1960s and 1970s, the Government College of Fine Arts played a focal role in the Progressive Painters’ Association as well. The association was born out of a need to create opportunities for students at the institute to continue creating art after finishing their academic programmes. In its initial phase, the artists of the Association experimented with European painting styles but, beginning the 1950s, they explored ideas of modernism within an Indian and regional context, incorporating local techniques and crafts.
In the 1960s, Paniker introduced the concept of small-format art (small-sized paintings and sculptures) within the Association, with the aim of creating a wider market and popularising art. Small-format art, also known as miniature art (not to be confused with miniature painting), featured prominently in the Association’s exhibitions in Pune, Mumbai and Chennai in 1971 and 1972, and it continues to promote it.
Another significant project was the Association’s quarterly journal ARTRENDS, published between 1961 and 1982. Initially edited by Paniker, and later by the artist KV Haridasan and scholar James Josef, it was published by artists of the Association and featured book and exhibition reviews, as well as articles on modern artists and art movements in India and around the world.
Several artists involved in the Association also became the leading artists of the Madras Art Movement, which emerged in the 1960s, and were among the early members of the Cholamandal Artists’ Village. This included SG Vasudev, MV Devan, KV Haridasan, J Sultan Ali, V Viswanadhan, L Munuswamy, M Senathipati and Reddeppa Naidu, among others.
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