Exactly half a century ago, my father, Kali Pundole started the Pundole Art Gallery, near the Flora Fountain in Bombay. The first two decades were a struggle for survival. After joining the business and going through the early gallery records that he maintained, I still cannot comprehend his dedication to his chosen profession. It was probably the confidence and commitment of the artists he interacted with that rubbed off on him. However, intent and belief alone do not keep home fires burning.
The formation of the Progressive Artists Group in 1947 had acted as a catalyst for the acceptance of Modern Art in India. Comprising F. N. Souza, S. H. Raza, K. H. Ara, M. F. Husain, A. H. Gade and S. K. Bakre, it was a united effort against academic realism as well as the revivalist art of the Bengal School. As Souza stated in the Patriot magazine in 1984 "Ganging up a collective ego is stronger than single ego. It is easier for a mob to carry out a lynching; and in this case we found it necessary to lynch the kind of art inculcated by the JJ School of Art and exhibited in the Bombay Art Society."
For me the current exhibition is in many ways woven around this short lived but significant movement. Besides Husain and Raza being members of the Progressive Artists Group, Gaitonde, Tyeb and Padamsee shared a similar ideology and were very much on the fringe without being members. Gaitonde, was in fact later invited into the group by Husain, and even exhibited with them in the early 1950's. By 1954 the group had outlived its purpose and were never to collectively exhibit again. After Souza left for London in 1949, it was Raza who suggested that Padamsee accompany him to Paris in 1950. Ram Kumar had left for Paris a year earlier and was there to receive them on their arrival.
Paris in the 1950's, was the Mecca for artists and it is interesting to note that for a period in the early 50's Raza, Souza, Ram Kumar, Padamsee, Paritosh Sen and Nirod Mazumdar all lived and worked there. Add to this the frequent visits by Husain and the 1954 visit by Tyeb. Besides Padamsee being briefly influenced by Raza's Italian landscapes and Souza appropriating Padamsee's Prophet heads, each artist developed his own distinctive language and style, despite the group's close interactions and common beliefs. The bio-data at the end of this catalogue primarily aims to highlight the common threads in these early years rather than each artist's individual achievements. Unfortunately, the information available is very sketchy and contradictory at times, including the Pundole Art Gallery publications, which makes it difficult to be very accurate.
The current exhibition pays tribute to the contribution of some of the most significant painters in Modern Indian history. My criteria while putting this exhibition together were that each work should be worthy of the artist, if not the best example of his work, and should be available for sale. My only regret is my failure to source a work by Souza, which met both the above criteria. A couple of the paintings in this exhibition, namely the Husain and Gaitonde were sold by my father probably in the late 1960's or early 70's and I consider it a coincidence for having the good fortune to exhibit them once again at the start of this new journey.