The exhibition will be on display on the first floor of the museum, where the artworks will be displaye on rotation
The exhibition will be on display on the first floor of the museum, where the artworks will be display on rotation

"Did you know that Bombay in the early 20th century was a thriving centre for art and the artist community?" reveals Sabyasachi Mukherjee, director general, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, as he takes us on a walkthrough of the soon-to-open Circular Gallery for Visual Art. We are one of the privileged few to witness the setting up of the exhibition, as Dr Prasanna Mangrulkar, assistant curator (paintings and education), and his team are busy at work to meet the July end deadline for the opening of the first exhibition, Pravaha: A Glimpse from the Early Phase of Sir JJ School of Art and Progressive Art Movement (late 19th-mid 20th century CE).

Sabyasachi Mukherjee points out to a detail of a watercolour exhibit
Sabyasachi Mukherjee points out to a detail of a watercolour exhibit

"This was Mr Mukherjee's idea. Till now, there was no permanent venue to showcase invaluable art works from the Bombay School of Art - a term applied to the style of artists from the Sir JJ School of Art. After all, it was one of the leading institutions to promote and support art in the Indian Subcontinent.

The exhibition will cover four sections - Portraits, Landscapes, Revivalism and the Progressive Artists' Group (PAG), and the nearly 100 works will be displayed on rotation through the year," shares Mangrulkar, who is excited that visitors will finally be exposed to the masters of Indian art.

Al original frames were restored to retain their grandeur. Each caption names the painting and has details of its painter, year of origin  and its source
Al original frames were restored to retain their grandeur. Each caption names the painting and has details of its painter, year of origin and its source

The new exhibition with showcase 100-odd artworks sourced from Sir JJ School and a few other schools of the time. Each has been painstakingly restored for public viewing by the in-house conservation centre, Mukherjee informs us. Visitors will also be treated to slideshows and engaging content about the masters and their art.

Assistant Curator Dr Prasanna Mangrulkar (blue shirt) oversees the work at the gallery as museum staff attempt to mount a painting along one of the walls of the gallery located on the first floor. PICS/SURESH KARKERA, CSMVS
Assistant Curator Dr Prasanna Mangrulkar (blue shirt) oversees the work at the gallery as museum staff attempt to mount a painting along one of the walls of the gallery located on the first floor. PICS/SURESH KARKERA, CSMVS

Art from Progressive Art Group period
Art from Progressive Art Group period

"Modern art (in those times) had many supporters and benefactors. Trustees of CSMVS (then Prince of Wales Museum) were forward looking and hence, took great interest in procuring art for the museum. They were inspired and influenced by leading contemporary artists of the time. WE Gladston Solomon, principal of Sir JJ School of Art from 1918 and 1936, and the curator of the museum from 1921 to 1937, played a key role in this art movement in the city. He was also on the board of trustees," Mangrulkar shares, all the while keeping a close watch on the mounting of massive artworks on to the high walls around us. The exhibits are a mix of canvas, paper, sketches and watercolours.

A painting of Lady Dorabji Tata by Gladston Solomon, Sir JJ School of Art principal and curator of Prince of Wales Museum
A painting of Lady Dorabji Tata by Gladston Solomon, Sir JJ School of Art principal and curator of Prince of Wales Museum

One of the first artworks to catch eye as we landed on the first floor was that of Lady Dorabji Tata. Later, as we looked closer, we spotted Gladston's name as the artist. "He was a farsighted visionary, who acquired most of the paintings of the Bombay School for this museum, which will remain his legacy and contribution not just for the institution but also to this city. This exhibition is a tribute to him," summarises Mukherjee.