Birds & bees, etched in stone

When one thinks of a 200 year-old object, it’s usually an old dungeon, a smelly cave or a dilapidated fort that comes to mind, not pretty birds. Yet, that is exactly the kind of 200 year-old flight you can take this Sunday — lithographs of colourful humming birds, ducks, hibiscus and periwinkles, priced between Rs 1,000 and Rs 28,000 will be available at Gallery Art and Soul till tomorrow.

One thousand six hundred lithographs, priced between Rs 1,000 to 28,000, will be on display at Gallery Art and Soul 

The exhibition, called Flora and Fauna, will showcase works of English ornithologist and bird artist John Gould, English gardener and architect Joseph Paxton, English botanist William Curtis, English orchidologist Benjamin Samuel Williams, British zoologist John Edward Gray and Scottish naturalist Sir William Jardine. The proceeds will go to People for Animals.

Gallery owner Tarana Khubchandani says, “These works have passed the test of time, and only five per cent of the works were damaged and needed work. Artists used to fill colours one by one, starting with the lightest, and create the lithographs, rich in flora and fauna.”

Animal rights activist and politician Maneka Gandhi procured her first two lithographic birds at the age of 21. “People for Animals depends on its fundraisers to run its 34 hospitals, legal work, policy making and rescue work, etc. We are always looking for new and innovative forms of art that can be bought easily. The lithographs, which are almost 200 years old, are very valuable all over the world. In India, this is only the second lithography exhibition to be held, as they are very hard to come by,” says Gandhi.

Artist Lalita Lajmi says lithography is a heavy-duty process, as it needs working with heavy white stones. “An artist would need someone to lift the stones. Etching is done using a crayon chalk which is used to draw straight on the stone — it could be the image of a man, woman or nature etc. Ravi Varma’s works are famous lithographs in India,” says Lajmi. 

What is a lithograph?
The term originated in 1796 by German author Alois Senefelder as a cheap method of publishing theatrical work. 
A flat white stone is roughened, and a design is etched upon it using a black crayon. The drawing is covered with a paper, and squeezed by another stone slab to keep it in place for a few hours so that the paper takes the design of the etched stone. The image is filled with coloured ink, going from light to dark, one colour at a time

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