On October 30, Lakshmi Priya Daniel, practising artist, art historian and Associate Professor at Stella Maris College in Chennai, took us on a journey through the history of Indian art from the 1940s to the present day. Focusing on art produced in South India, she drew our attention to the absence of women artists in this history. Asserting that this absence by no means reflected the mediocrity of women’s art, Lakshmi Priya explained how women artists had come to be so under-recognised.
Lakshmi Priya told stories of women artists whose work was misattributed to the more famous male artists in their households. For example, Mangala Bayi Thampuratti (1865-1954) had her own studio and painted for commission and yet was never recognised as a professional artist with many of her paintings misattributed to her brother, the celebrated painter Raja Ravi Varma. Lakshmi Priya also told stories of women who had given up their art to be wives and mothers. For example, the wife of K. C. S. Paniker,principal of the Government College of Fine Arts, Chennai, in 1957, and founder of the Cholamandal Artists’ Village, had been a student at the Government College of Fine Arts but had given up her own career after marriage, allegedly saying “In order to gain a space, I had to give up a space”.
Lakshmi Priya concluded by drawing our attention to the extraordinary experimentation of young women artists in India today.