Book: A Brush With Indian Art: From Cave to Contemporary Paintings
Author: Mamta Nainy and (Illustration by) Aniruddha Mukherjee
Publisher: Puffin Books
Price: Rs 299
Appropriate for: 10+
Did you know that the enigmatic smile of Bani Thani, a beauty often featured in Rajasthan miniatures and inspired by a poem written by Raja Sawant Singh of Kishangarh, has often been compared to that of the Mona Lisa? Or, that the title of “Raja” was conferred on artist Ravi Varma in 1873, after he won the first prize at an art exhibition in Vienna?
These, and many other such interesting nuggets come together in Mamta Nainy’s book of Indian art history for pre-teens. In the last few years, the lacunae in publications on Indian art history for a younger readership has been addressed somewhat by some timely volumes. While writers Ritu Khoda and Vanita Pai have explored the modernist movements in Indian art in their excellent book, Eye Spy Indian Art, Nainy begins with the 14,000-years-old paintings on the roof of the Cave of Altamira in Spain and moves to cave art in parts of India such as Bhimbetka, Ajanta and Ellora.
The book offers an overview of the various artistic traditions in India, tying it up with corresponding socio-political movements. One of the most interesting chapters in the book is the section on folk art. While there’s narrative chronology, each chapter can be read in isolation as well. There’s only one grouse: a book on art would have benefitted from a more vibrant production quality and a greater representation of artwork.