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Postcards from the past

  • The unique exhibition at Red Fort will showcase timeless art
  • For the first time, however, the fortress will display works that date back to the 18th century

‘Unidentified Parsi Lady’, M.F. Pithawalla (1906).
‘Unidentified Parsi Lady’, M.F. Pithawalla (1906).

Red Fort is intrinsic to Delhi’s historical fabric, but it has seldom been considered as a backdrop for displaying rare, valuable art. For the first time, however, the fortress will display works that date back to the 18th century. Spread across the recently restored, three-storeyed barracks belonging to the colonial era, Dhrishyakala (presented by DAG, Delhi in collaboration with the Archaeological Survey of India) is an exhibition that will feature over 450 artworks.

“Nowhere is the context of this exhibition more significant than the Red Fort.... Here is where the Mughal empire was replaced by the British Raj, and, eventually, by the tricolour of an independent India—the narrative of the fort’s history makes for a compelling story," says DAG’s CEO and MD Ashish Anand. “We worked in synergy with ASI’s highly commendable vision of bringing art and history to all the people of India, through this new museum hub that Dhrishyakala is part of."

From Oriental Scenery by Thomas and William Daniell, which offers a snapshot of 18th century Indian landscapes and architecture (before the onslaught of industrialization), to A Portrait Of A People, which functions as a visual diary of the natives of India and the lives they lived—the exhibition vivifies the experience of a historical and cultural immersion.

There is also a chapter dedicated to the nine National Treasure Artists, which include Raja Ravi Varma, Rabindranath Tagore and Amrita Sher-Gil. One of the centrepieces that anchor the exhibition, for instance, is a “rare sculpture" by Sher-Gil, executed in 1940 in Saraya. “It is believed that the prolific artist created only two relief sculptures during her lifetime, with one of them being the plaster of Paris tigers on display at Dhrishyakala," says Anand. “Then, there is Raja Ravi Varma’s Yashodha And Krishna, considered to be one of the most important paintings in the last 200 years. Also on display is an amazing wealth of watercolours from Ravi Varma’s book. These were essentially his preparatory works, and help unravel how Ravi Varma thought up his compositions." DAG has also established small tactile galleries across the three floors for the visually-impaired, complete with audio and art-related literature in Braille.

Dhrishyakala will be held from 5 February-31 July at Red Fort.

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