“Midnight to the Boom: Painting in India after Independence”

From our review of “Midnight to the Boom: Painting in India after Independence” at Salem’s Peabody Essex Museum:

On midnight Aug. 15, 1947, after being under British control since the 18th century, India won its independence. In New Delhi, the government assembly cheered after the clock struck 12.

“India will awake to life and freedom,” Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru proclaimed. He called for “ending of poverty, ignorance, disease and inequality of opportunity.”

It was a heady moment of promise, but already the division of the subcontinent into mainly Hindu India and Moslem-majority Pakistan had sparked fighting and mass migrations that would leave some 500,000 to 1 million dead. Including Mahatma Gandhi, the leader of nonviolent protests against British rule in the 1920s that grew into the independence movement. He was assassinated by a Hindu nationalist on Jan. 30, 1948.

“Midnight to the Boom: Painting in India after Independence” at the Peabody Essex Museum assembles nearly 70 works by 23 artists to survey the nation’s creativity from 1947 to the country’s economic boom in the 1990s. Drawing on the 1,200-works in the museum’s Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection of modern Indian art, which the museum calls the “foremost public collection of Modernist Indian art outside that country,” the exhibit aims to show how Indian artists, finally free of British colonial rule, began to redefine what it meant to be Indian.

Read the rest here.

“Midnight to the Boom: Painting in India after Independence” at the Peabody Essex Museum, 161 Essex St., Salem, Massachusetts, Feb. 2 to April 21, 2013.

Pictured at top: Ranbir Singh Kaleka, “Family – 1,” 1983, oil on canvas. Pictured below: Bhupen Khakhar, “First Day in New York,” 1983, oil on canvas. Images courtesy of the Peabody Essex Museum.

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