Contrary to what most laymen believe, Modern art does not refer to a bunch of colourful squiggles on a canvas. Nor does it refer to a mass of disconnected geometric shapes, which appear to be a child’s geometry home work, but are supposed to represent the human mind (or something to that effect). In fact, it is a very beautiful and breathtaking form of art, which apart from striking people with its beauty, also make them think. The painters of the modern art era (1860 to 1970) were rebellious thinkers, who wanted to show the world the different and fresh ways to view the world.
The birth of Modern Art began with the exhibition of the famous Le dejeuner sur l’herbe by the famous Edouard Manet. The painting shows two men, dressed in the attire typical of businessmen in those days, sitting in a beautiful clearing and talking. A completely naked woman, facing the viewer of the painting is sitting right next to the men, who seem oblivious of her presence. A little behind them, is a woman wearing thin clothes with her face down on the ground, and she seems to be floating above them. The painting could be depicted in many ways, one of which is that men have become so wrapped up in life’s mundane routine, that they are completely oblivious to the beauty of nature around them. This painting created a huge stir, mainly because of the shock value of the nude painting. There are many other equally famous paintings that belong to this era, like Two Women Waltzing by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, The Scream by Edward Munch and so on. They are all mesmerizing, not only due to the vibrant colours, the broad strokes and the imagery; but also due to the brilliance of the ideas and thoughts that lay underneath.
In India, artists have always been fascinated by nature. Many of the most famous works of Indian art depict Gods and goddesses, which could be perceived as the artist’s notion of the perfect human form, of various scenes from nature and so on. Modern art is not only about depiction of nature, but the ability of the artist to think freely, courageously, and put his unconventional, raw thoughts into his works. Some of the most famous modern artists of India are Jamini Roy, Amrita Shergil, and M.F. Hussain.
M.F.Hussain’s works have always been at the centre of controversy. Most of his works depict Hindu goddesses in erotic positions. Some people, chiefly Hindu activists have raised huge protests and have even filed law suits against the artist, while others claim that he is a true artist, who needs to be given full freedom, and a Bharat Ratna. Considering that his art works are regularly sold at Christie’s for around $1500000 to 2000000 million, their sentiments can be understood.
But what is to be understood here is that usually, buyers of paintings at such auctions are not huge connoisseurs of art. They neither understand, nor care about art. They are usually extremely affluent business people (or their employees), whose main aim is to create strong social status and glamour. They feel that if their walls exhibit the painting that’s the most talked about or the most controversial, it will create publicity, and will draw potential business partners, important media journalists, etc to their homes, thus helping them increase their social standing. Or they consider buying paintings as investment of their abundant wealth. Also, the people who rally for and against Mr.Hussain in India don’t really care about the paintings in the slightest. They are all only interested in using the matter as a step towards their ambitions.
All in all, the “art” is lost. In the past, modern artists have always been the subject of disapproval. They have always been criticised for their forward ideas, and accused of corrupting the society. Yet, what is remarkably different in the present situation is that in the past, the criticism against artists was uniform across people of all religions and sects. They were not generally accused by people of a particular sect of insulting what they considered was sacred, but by the public in general for being rebellious.