The Progressive Artists Group consists of the most iconic artists of India that was setup in 1947 in Bombay that contributed in the transformation of the modern art scenario of the nation.
The founding members were known as the heralds of a new dawn in the world of Indian art’ by celebrated author Mulk Raj Anand.The members have changed the conservative outlooks of the artistic world and embraced the worldly mindset.
This embracement brought a beautiful compound of Indian art history with modernist styles.
The PAG had 6 outstanding artists initially who changed the face of indian arts and its distinctive styles completely in the Post-Independence era.
Before the art the indian art was dominated by the British engineered Company school and nationalist art of Bengal. But with the ejection of the British raj in 1947, a number of groups vaulted during partition that rejected the existing artistic practices in favor of international art styles and movements. The most renowned group members included MF Hussain, FN Souza, SH Raza, S Bakre and KH Ara. Later, the group was joined by the other artists named Akbar Padamsee, Ram Kumar, VS Gaitonde, Krishen Khanna and Tyeb Mehta who came in and left at different stages.
Along with theater artists and writers, visual artists too merged with the former under the banner of “progressive” and identified with Marxism. They had leftist leanings and the title “Progressive” associated them with the Progressive Writers’ Movement, which was started by communist writers and fellow travelers at a conference held in 1936.
In 1940-50, there was a rise of artists such as Somnath Hore and Chitta Prasad inspired by the Bengal Famine while artists like Nirode Mazumdar, Prodosh Das Gupta and Gobardhan Ash formed the Calcutta Group in their attempt to move away from the Bengal School.
Initially the group started out as a collective in which some of the artists developed a greater maturity in their work individually but in 1951, the group disintegrated as Souza,Raza and Ara parted their ways.
The group was formed to release the limitations in the principles in that time exhibitions judging process. The group wanted to break the whimsical selection process and bring greater transparency in judging criteria by setting up a Judging Committee to create an equal platform for rising artists to showcase their work.
The PAG primarily intended to promote an anti- imperialist outlook and bridge the increasing gap between artists and the life of the people. Later they were to rescind their primary mission as unachievable and focus instead on experimenting with subject matter in their individual styles .
But the group dismissed soon after its joint exhibition with Culcutta Group held in 1951 at calcutta.
The group was influenced by the European modernism, but the members worked in dramatically different styles. Souza opted expressionism whereas Gaitonde had influence of pure abstraction. Specific Indian imagery and landscapes were followed by Mehta and Hussain. Through the incorporation and mixture of new, abstract styles with traditional Indian art elements and Media, the PAG is one of the most influential art movements in India until today. In 2015, F.N. Souza’s painting “Birth” set a new record for Indian art with a hammer price above US$ 4 Mio, which shows the worldwide appeal of the group.