Kalighat Paintings Arrive in London


A selection of Kalighat Paintings, or ‘Kalighat Patachitra will be on display till Friday (18 September) at London’s Nehru Centre….reports Asian Lite News

Kalighat Paintings Arrive in London
Kalighat Paintings Arrive in London

From rare gems to historical documents, London has long played home to myriad treasures from its former colonies in the Indian sub-continent. The latest to arrive in the British capital is one of India’s most important art forms, by way of an exclusive and rare exhibition of paintings native to arguably the country’s most important cultural hub – Kolkata.

Kalighat Paintings, or ‘Kalighat Patachitra’ to give the form its local nomenclature, is believed to have originated in the second half of the 19th Century adjacent to Kolkata’s world famous Kali Temple, near a place called ‘Kalighat’ – a landing on a tributary of the River Ganges which gave rise to the name of the city.

The paintings were said to have been coveted by the British – who ruled over India from Calcutta at the time – and who also promoted the art form which is widely considered India’s first expression of modern art.

Created by a group of artists called ‘Patuas’ (“Painters on Cloth”), the paintings are marked by strong lines, long, almost contiguous brush strokes, vibrant colours and visual rhythm.

It is said that the Patuas were skilled artists from rural parts of Kolkatta who specialized in tapestry-like paintings created on long scrolls of handmade paper – often stretching to more than 20 feet in length. These artists were drawn to the increasingly popular tourist destination thatKalighat was becoming, plying their trade and creating stunning ‘KalighatPatachitra’.

Kalighat Paintings Arrive in London
Kalighat Paintings Arrive in London

A selection of these paintings, some dating back to the early 20th Century, will be on display as part of the exhibition ‘Bengal Popular Art: Kalighat Patachitra’ to be held at London’s Nehru Centre from 14 – 18 September.

The exhibition is part of a festival celebrating Bengali culture and is a collaboration between Baithak UK and NuGa Arthouse.  It’s supported by the Nehru Centre and the Arts Council of England.

Sangeeta Datta, the well-known writer and filmmaker and founder of Baithak UK, said: “This is a fascinating form of art which draws on the growing urban culture around the Kali temple of Kalighat, on the fascinating colonial interaction between Sahib and Bengali babu culture, on the meteoric rise of theatre and the entry of performing women and actresses.”

At Baithak we always like to work on cross arts, bring in new audiences and create educative engagement with the arts.  To extend the theme and rich tapestry of Bengal art we are also offering talks, workshops and two concerts on the history of Bengali music as well on music from the region’s film and stage industries.  We will also play puritan or old style singing highlighting early recordings of the performing women on gramophone records from 1920’s and 30’s.”

Among the highlights of the festival is a celebration of Bengali music featuring music from the Golden Age of Bengali cinema.