NCERT Textbook - The Changing World of Visual Arts Class 8 Notes | EduRev

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Class 8 : NCERT Textbook - The Changing World of Visual Arts Class 8 Notes | EduRev

 Page 1


THE CHANGING WORLD OF VISUAL ARTS 123
When you look at a work of art – a painting, sculpture,
etc. – it may not be obvious that like most other things,
art too is influenced by the world around it. You may
not realise that what you see also shapes your own
ideas. In this chapter we will be looking at the changes
in the world of visual arts during the colonial period,
and how these changes are linked to the wider history
of colonialism and nationalism.
Colonial rule introduced several new art forms,
styles, materials and techniques which were creatively
adapted by Indian artists for local patrons and
markets, in both elite and popular circles. You will
find that many of the visual forms that you take for
granted today – say, a grand public building with
domes, columns and arches; a scenic landscape, the
realistic human image in a portrait, or in popular
icons of gods and goddesses; a mechanically printed
and mass-produced picture – had their origins in the
period we will discuss in this chapter.
To understand this history we will focus primarily
on the changes in one sphere – painting and print making.
New Forms of Imperial Art
From the eighteenth century a stream of European artists
came to India along with the British traders and rulers.
The artists brought with them new styles and new
conventions of painting. They began producing pictures
which became widely popular in Europe and helped
shape Western perceptions of India.
The Changing World of Visual Arts
Convention – An
accepted norm or style
10
Fig. 1 – Damayanthi, painted
by Raja Ravi Verma
© NCERT
not to be republished
Page 2


THE CHANGING WORLD OF VISUAL ARTS 123
When you look at a work of art – a painting, sculpture,
etc. – it may not be obvious that like most other things,
art too is influenced by the world around it. You may
not realise that what you see also shapes your own
ideas. In this chapter we will be looking at the changes
in the world of visual arts during the colonial period,
and how these changes are linked to the wider history
of colonialism and nationalism.
Colonial rule introduced several new art forms,
styles, materials and techniques which were creatively
adapted by Indian artists for local patrons and
markets, in both elite and popular circles. You will
find that many of the visual forms that you take for
granted today – say, a grand public building with
domes, columns and arches; a scenic landscape, the
realistic human image in a portrait, or in popular
icons of gods and goddesses; a mechanically printed
and mass-produced picture – had their origins in the
period we will discuss in this chapter.
To understand this history we will focus primarily
on the changes in one sphere – painting and print making.
New Forms of Imperial Art
From the eighteenth century a stream of European artists
came to India along with the British traders and rulers.
The artists brought with them new styles and new
conventions of painting. They began producing pictures
which became widely popular in Europe and helped
shape Western perceptions of India.
The Changing World of Visual Arts
Convention – An
accepted norm or style
10
Fig. 1 – Damayanthi, painted
by Raja Ravi Verma
© NCERT
not to be republished
OUR PASTS – III 124
European artists brought with them the idea of
realism. This was a belief that artists had to observe
carefully and depict faithfully what the eye saw. What
the artist produced was expected to look real and lifelike.
European artists also brought with them the technique
of oil painting – a technique with which Indian artists
were not very familiar. Oil painting enabled artists to
produce images that looked real.
Not all European artists in India were inspired by
the same things. The subjects they painted were varied,
but invariably they seemed to emphasise the superiority
of Britain – its culture, its people, its power. Let us
look at a few major trends within imperial art.
Looking for the picturesque
One popular imperial tradition was that of picturesque
landscape painting. What was the picturesque? This
style of painting depicted India as a quaint land, to be
explored by travelling British artists; its landscape was
rugged and wild, seemingly untamed by human hands.
Thomas Daniell and his nephew William Daniell were
the most famous of the artists who painted within this
tradition. They came to India in 1785 and stayed for
seven years, journeying from Calcutta to northern and
southern India. They produced some of the most
evocative picturesque landscapes of Britain’s newly
conquered territories in India. Their large oil paintings
on canvas were regularly exhibited to select audiences
in Britain, and their albums
of engravings were eagerly
bought up by a British public
keen to know about Britain’s
empire.
Fig. 2 is a typical example
of a picturesque landscape
painted by the Daniells.
Notice the ruins of local
buildings that were once
grand. The buildings are
reminders of past glory,
remains of an ancient
civilisation that was now
in  ruins. It was as if this
decaying civilisation would
change and modernise only
through British governance.
Engraving – A picture
printed onto paper from
a piece of wood or metal
into which the design or
drawing has been cut
Fig. 2 – Ruins on the banks of the
Ganges at Ghazipur , painted by
Thomas Daniell (oil, 1791)
© NCERT
not to be republished
Page 3


THE CHANGING WORLD OF VISUAL ARTS 123
When you look at a work of art – a painting, sculpture,
etc. – it may not be obvious that like most other things,
art too is influenced by the world around it. You may
not realise that what you see also shapes your own
ideas. In this chapter we will be looking at the changes
in the world of visual arts during the colonial period,
and how these changes are linked to the wider history
of colonialism and nationalism.
Colonial rule introduced several new art forms,
styles, materials and techniques which were creatively
adapted by Indian artists for local patrons and
markets, in both elite and popular circles. You will
find that many of the visual forms that you take for
granted today – say, a grand public building with
domes, columns and arches; a scenic landscape, the
realistic human image in a portrait, or in popular
icons of gods and goddesses; a mechanically printed
and mass-produced picture – had their origins in the
period we will discuss in this chapter.
To understand this history we will focus primarily
on the changes in one sphere – painting and print making.
New Forms of Imperial Art
From the eighteenth century a stream of European artists
came to India along with the British traders and rulers.
The artists brought with them new styles and new
conventions of painting. They began producing pictures
which became widely popular in Europe and helped
shape Western perceptions of India.
The Changing World of Visual Arts
Convention – An
accepted norm or style
10
Fig. 1 – Damayanthi, painted
by Raja Ravi Verma
© NCERT
not to be republished
OUR PASTS – III 124
European artists brought with them the idea of
realism. This was a belief that artists had to observe
carefully and depict faithfully what the eye saw. What
the artist produced was expected to look real and lifelike.
European artists also brought with them the technique
of oil painting – a technique with which Indian artists
were not very familiar. Oil painting enabled artists to
produce images that looked real.
Not all European artists in India were inspired by
the same things. The subjects they painted were varied,
but invariably they seemed to emphasise the superiority
of Britain – its culture, its people, its power. Let us
look at a few major trends within imperial art.
Looking for the picturesque
One popular imperial tradition was that of picturesque
landscape painting. What was the picturesque? This
style of painting depicted India as a quaint land, to be
explored by travelling British artists; its landscape was
rugged and wild, seemingly untamed by human hands.
Thomas Daniell and his nephew William Daniell were
the most famous of the artists who painted within this
tradition. They came to India in 1785 and stayed for
seven years, journeying from Calcutta to northern and
southern India. They produced some of the most
evocative picturesque landscapes of Britain’s newly
conquered territories in India. Their large oil paintings
on canvas were regularly exhibited to select audiences
in Britain, and their albums
of engravings were eagerly
bought up by a British public
keen to know about Britain’s
empire.
Fig. 2 is a typical example
of a picturesque landscape
painted by the Daniells.
Notice the ruins of local
buildings that were once
grand. The buildings are
reminders of past glory,
remains of an ancient
civilisation that was now
in  ruins. It was as if this
decaying civilisation would
change and modernise only
through British governance.
Engraving – A picture
printed onto paper from
a piece of wood or metal
into which the design or
drawing has been cut
Fig. 2 – Ruins on the banks of the
Ganges at Ghazipur , painted by
Thomas Daniell (oil, 1791)
© NCERT
not to be republished
THE CHANGING WORLD OF VISUAL ARTS 125
This image of British rule bringing modern
civilisation to  India is powerfully emphasised in the
numerous pictures of late-eighteenth-century Calcutta
drawn by the Daniells. In these drawings you can see
the making of a new Calcutta, with wide avenues,
majestic European-style buildings, and new modes of
transport (Fig. 3). There is life and activity on the roads,
there is drama and excitement. Look carefully at
Figs. 2 and 3. See how the Daniells contrast the image
of traditional India with that of life under British rule.
Fig. 2 seeks to represent the traditional life of India as
pre-modern, changeless and motionless, typified by
faqirs, cows, and boats sailing on the river. Fig. 3 shows
the modernising influence of British rule, by
emphasising a picture of dramatic change.
Portraits of authority
Another tradition of art that became immensely popular
in colonial India was portrait painting. The rich and
the powerful, both British and Indian, wanted to see
themselves on canvas. Unlike the existing Indian
tradition of painting portraits in miniature, colonial
portraits were life-size images that looked lifelike and
real. The size of the paintings itself projected the
importance of the patrons who commissioned these
portraits. This new style of portraiture also served as
an ideal means of displaying the lavish lifestyles, wealth
and status that the empire generated.
Fig. 3 – Clive street in Calcutta,
drawn by Thomas and William
Daniell, 1786
Portrait – A picture of a
person in which the face
and its expression is
prominent
Portraiture – The art of
making portraits
© NCERT
not to be republished
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