Dear Fellow artists, have some shame

A sketch by Charlotte CanningThe Garden Reach at Barrackpore
A sketch by Charlotte Canning
(click for a larger image)

The above image is taken from Charles Allen's fine book-A Glimpse Of The Burning Plain- Leaves From The Indian Journals Of Charlotte Canning

A Glimpse Of The Burning Plain- Leaves From The Indian Journals Of Charlotte Canning

Charlotte Canning (1817-1861) was the wife of Lord Canning, appointed Governor-General of India in 1855.

In 1855, Lady Charlotte Canning accompanied her husband when he was appointed Governor-General of India. Her six-year exile from England, ending in her death in Calcutta, is recorded in a collection of letters and sketches. The letters, over 50 to Queen Victoria, to whom she was a cherished and indefatigable correspondent, evoke the quality of the British connection with India. The Cannings' tenure was marred by the Indian Mutiny and political pressures from England, but Charlotte used her personal loneliness and solitude to study the plight of Indian women, to explore the Himalayas and to convey through her regular correspondence with the Queen and others how it is to be seduced by India.
There are many fine sketches and studies in the book. Lady Canning was a fairly competent artist.
Which brings me to this-
I know that nobody is listening but here is what I should like to say my brethren and sister artists in India-

Aabey,yaar, kuchch to sharam karo*.Here is this angrez* woman who did some nice work about 150 years ago, and here you are, you can't even draw a tree or a horse competently let alone a human figure. Just look at the rotten works of MF Husain, FN Souza, The Brootas, Tyeb Mehta- and I am not even going to mention the near circus quality gimmicks of Bose Krishnamachari, Subodh Gupta and many others. They are not the ones you should be emulating.

Abhi bhe* there is still time.You can try and learn something. Make an effort. Learn. Practice.Work it out. Sweat it out.You can still learn how to draw and paint well and given your dedication you can become a master, a true master. And by master I don't mean drawing the silly circles like SH Raza or the worm like crawling thingies like Jeram Patel.

Get out of the mindset that art has to be ultaseedha*, oontpatang*, tedhamaedha* to be taken seriously. Stop being intimidated by witchdoctors like Suneet Chopra, Keshav Malik and many other culture-vultures. Stop hankering after the approval of the likes of Vadheras and Vaziranis(of Saffronart).

I am tempted to say that be true to yourself and do your own thing. But I won't, not because it's a tired cliché, but because I have no idea what that means. So all I will say is- draw well, paint well and when you really do, be not afraid to have pride in your work, despite what the Maliks and the Vadheras might think.

*The colorful Indian language translator-
Aabey,yaar, kuchch to sharam karo - c'mon friends, have some shame!
angrez- English
Abhi bhe- Still. there is yet
, oontpatang, tedhamaedha- Mindless, senseless, twisted, distorted

update and oops- Keshav Patel changed to Keshav Malik.


Anonymous said…
Dear Sir,
You have written a very thoughtful article.Yet with art as always the question is ' what is art'? Art is what appears as art to the beholder- frankly. Hence what you may not perceive as art will be art in the someone's eyes.What you may throw out as thrash
will fetch a million elsewhere!!

Though i don't agree on all counts with you, i feel that what you said in the end is right -draw and paint from the heart- or what your mind body and soul feels- something that comes from inside.

If it appeals to the people it is art,if not - its a scribble and and a splash of paint!!!

Dr Alexander
consultant plastic and cosmetic surgeon
kims hospital
Jean Rasson said…
Looking for the sketch of Rothas Fort in Pendjab by the Lady Charlotte. Anyone can help me?
J Rasson,