Thursday, May 15, 2014
In 1852, the government took over the Madras School of Arts, that had been established by a surgeon, Dr. Alexander Hunter, a couple of years earlier. More than a century later, the second Indian principal of that establishment - which was by now known as College of Arts and Crafts - was instrumental in creating a movement of painters and sculptors that sought to combine modernism with local influences of myth, legend and art heritage. That principal was Kovalezhi Cheerampathoor Sankaran Paniker. His fellow teachers, and several students pursued this artistic ideal and that group became the vanguard of the Madras Movement.
Many artists of that movement were extremely individualistic and it seems to me something of a miracle that they held together for long enough for their work to come under a 'category'. But they did and their work, recognized as and identified with the Madras Movement is feted around the world. They came together to form the Cholamandalam Artists' Village in the late 1960s, but it was only in the last decade that the artists have ventured to create a Centre for Contemporary Art.
Housed within that Centre is the KCS Paniker Museum of the Madras Movement. It has works from almost every significant member of the Movement. Most of Paniker's own works, however, are not here; they are not with the Cholamandalam Artists' Village, either. They are not even anywhere in Chennai, for the Government of Madras (as it was in those days) did not take up Paniker's offer to donate his works to the state; and so they moved away to the Art Gallery at Thiruvananthapuram!