BY SHIVRAM V. BHANDARKAR, B.A., LL.B.,
Hon. Secretary, Bombay Art Society.
THE Bombay Art Society was founded in December 1888 for the promotion and encouragement of Art by the Exhibition of pictures, and other works of art, by the publication of an Art Journal, by meetings and lectures, by assisting in the establishment, and maintenance of a permanent Gallery for pictures and other works of Art, and by the formation of an Art Union. The Members of the Committee of Management, and probably the first founders of the Society as shown by the records available, and particularly by a copy of the Catalogue of the Third Annual Exhibition held in 1891 were almost all Europeans—one of whom was Mr. G.W. Terry, an eminent Artist and the then Principal of the Sir J.J. School of Art.
The Patron of the Society has invariably been His Excellency the Governor of the Bombay Presidency for the time being.
The Society has continued to hold it$ Annual Exhibitions of Paintings, Sculpture, and other Arts and Crafts ever since its foundation, and the last Exhibition held in November 1923 was its Thirty-third Exhibition.
For want of sufficient funds, and a suitable place the Society has not been able to carry out its other objects, viz.: meetings and lectures, and the establishment and maintenance of a permanent Gallery of pictures and other works of Art.
For similar reasons it has not been able to continue the publication of an Art Journal, which was started for the first time in 1910, and contained (a) a brief historical sketch of the Society with special reference to the period from 1906 to 1910 by Prof. O.V. Muller, the then Hon. Secretary of the Society; (b) a short account of the 18th Exhibition of the Society held in March 1909 with a reproduction of some of the leading pictures; (c) a lecture on the Rock-Cut Temples of Western, India, illustrated by lantern slides delivered on 22nd of February by Mr. Shivram V. Bhandarkar, then Assistant Hon. Secretary of the Society.
Also for want of funds, and a suitable place for its location, the desire to have a permanent Art Gallery of pictures, etc., has not been fulfilled. It was expected that when the Prince of Wales Museum was placed on a suitable foundation in its present building, a room might be found therein for such a Gallery, but this expectation has not materialized.1 There can be no doubt that a most useful collection of paintings by Indian Artists might have been made during all these years, and located in the Prince of Wales Museum as a permanent record of the work of Indian Artists.
The Society, however, has been able to continue to hold its Annual Exhibitions. These Exhibitions have proved to be the best media for the encouragement of, and profit to, the Artists throughout India, and particularly in the Bombay Presidency.
For some five or six years since the foundation of the Society the Exhibits of the European Artists preponderated over those of the Indian Artists as shown by the Catalogues of the Annual Exhibitions. This was natural. The Sir J.J. School of Art was then in its first stages of development, but in course of time as taste for the acquisition of art as a profession was developed under able Principals of the School of Art, like Messrs. Terry, and Griffiths, and by the publicity given to Indian Artists by the Bombay Art Society, the School of Art produced a band of Indian Artists, whose works can be compared most favourably with those of European Artists. The number of works of these Indian Artists exhibited in subsequent years at the Society’s Annual Exhibition have considerably increased and have secured for many of them medals and prizes.
From the commencement of the work of the Society a special prize has been reserved to the students of the Sir J.J. School of Art. This reservation is indicative of the interest which the first promoters, and subsequent Committee of the Society took in that School.
The Society is maintained by annual subscriptions from ordinary Members, by an annual grant by the Government of Bombay and by interest on some funds, which are the accumulated savings of several years past, resulting from efficient and economical working. The Society also awards Medals and Prizes partly out of its own funds, partly from donations from generous donors. But for the Government grant and private donations it would not have been able to carry on its work. H.E. the Governor of Bombay for the time being has throughout never failed to show his appreciation of the work done by the Society by a donation for a prize in his name.
It is hoped that the public and Government of Bombay will continue to support the Society, which has served Art so well all these years, and will take early steps to have it housed in a suitable Home.
- 1. This year however the Trustees of the Prince of Wales Museum purchased four pictures from the Annual Exhibition of the Bombay Art Society.