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Sir Hormusjee Cowasjee Dinshaw

Sir Hormusjee Cowasjee Dinshaw (b.1857-)
Kt., O.B.E., M.V.O., Bombay

by Sorab M. Pithawala
dated 1940

Oil on canvas
26 x 21 in. (66 x 53 cm.)

He was the eldest son of Mr. Cowasji Dinshaw, and was educated at the prestigious King’s College of London. He later went to join his father’s firm as a senior partner. He also had the honour of presenting the address to H. M. King of George V in 1911.

A business tycoon from Mumbai

A business tycoon from Mumbai

by K. P. Dabholkar
dated: 1957

Oil on canvas
78.3 x 42.1 in. (199 x 107 cm.)

During the later part of the century we could see a transformation in the depiction of the Indian industrialist or noble men. The portraits started to look more European in its stylization and description in terms of attire and background. This could clearly also indicate the influence of education and the changing paradigms of the image of a gentleman.

This portrait by K. P. Dabholkar, shows an Indian person in a western attire, with a scroll in hand, book cabinet in the background and a victorian style flower arrangement by the side. The framing of the portrait is also done in the form of self-indulgent decorative style known as “art-deco” that was prevalent during those times. This style of framing is said to have been synonymous with depiction of luxury, glamour, exuberance and faith in social and technological progress.

Chhaganlal Thakordas Modi

Chhaganlal Thakordas Modi (1857-1947)

by B. A. Inamdar, Bombay
dated: 1925

Oil on canvas
59 x 36.2 in. (150 x 92 cm.)

During the late nineteenth century, philanthropy began to emerge as a particularly important means of establishing an identity as a person of authority among the Britishers and the general public. Influential local sheths started donating to public causes like education, health care, infrastructure services etc. giving rise to the need of portraits.

This portrait is of the educationalist, Chhaganlal Thakordas Modi, an illustrious and visionary from Surat. Modi’s father started the first Hot Metal Type Foundry (Gujarati Type) at Mumbai. This enabled Modi to envision the need for bringing and indigenizing printing and for a proper research into Indian languages and scripts. His research inspired his son to study Indian languages and he also found that every letter in the Devnagari alphabet was assigned to a Swaroop of Maha Saraswati. He then compiled these to form the modern day Devnagari Type Forms.

Chhaganlal Thakordas Modi got his picture clicked at one of the local champaneria photo stores in Surat and sent it to the artist in Mumbai to paint.

Gelatine Silver print

Sheth Raoji Naranji

Sheth Raoji Naranji
Kutchi Philanthropist from Mumbai

by Unknown artist
The Enlargephoto & Co., Fort, Mumbai
circa 1930

Oil on canvas
30.3 x 24 in. (77 x 61 cm.)

Painted photographs were becoming the norm of the day during the pre-independence era. A merging of the art of portrait painting and the photographic tradition took place so seamlessly that it marks a crucial chapter in the history of Indian Art. Artists initially used photographic images as a reference to make portraits. With advancement in photography, commercial studios opened up all across the country offering instant, real and fast portraits. They also started services to retouch portraits or add colour to black and white or sepia images. Local artists were looking for work due to loss of patronage and decline of princely states.

This portrait was painted by an artist and carries the seal of the studio rather than the painters sign. Such was the time that studios hired local artists to paint on photographs and added the touch of an oil portrait on it. The tradition of hand-colouring disappeared in the later years due to the invention of colour and digital photography. No detail on Raoji Naranji could be gathered, however he might have been a wealthy merchant living in Mumbai.

Portrait of father, M. F. Pithawala

Portrait of father, M. F. Pithawala (1872-1937)

by Sorab M. Pithavalla
dated: 1935

Oil on canvas
30.1 x 24.2 in. (76.5 x 61.5 cm.)

Many artist children also took up portrait painting and earned a name for themselves in the art community. One such was Sorab Pithavalla, the second son of M. F. Pithawalla. He studied for almost ten years the art of portrait painting from his father and also won several awards and prizes at art exhibitions. He had the skill and a unique proficiency in translating the exact living likeness on the canvas. Both father and son had a command in genre depictions-the portrait, indoors, barn life, still-life-without ignoring the social. Their works have the props of a newly emergent bourgeois life that was gaining momentum in India.

Sorab did portraits of both his father and mother. This portrait of his father is on canvas whereas his mother’s portrait is in the form of a painted photograph.

Mr. Edalji Dorabji Talati , B.A., J.P.

Mr. Edalji Dorabji Talati , B.A., J.P. (1849-1929)

by Eruchshaw Pestonji
dated: 1920

Oil on board
7.9 x 5.5 in. (20 x 14 cm.)

Eruchshaw Pestonji was the son of the famous Parsi realist Pestonji Bomanji. Just like his father, he joined the art fraternity and painted portraits for many prominent members of the Parsi community. It seems that portrait painting was practiced more like a business that a father passes on to his son as a heritage.

The portrait is of Mr. Talati – a popular and respected figure in Mumbai during those days. From a very humble beginning he rose to be the Principal of the Elphinstone High School – Bombay, in
the Presidency then, and was for some time also the Principal of the Government High School at Surat, Ahmedabad and Karachi. He was not a teacher by profession but by choice and teaching was ingrained in his blood. He was like a father figure to his pupils and by dint of sheer hard work coupled with honesty of purpose and clarity of intelligence he was able to rise to important positions. He was the one who first opened a Public School for Parsis based on the blueprint of the Public Schools of England, that he visited. He also made manual labour subjects like carpentry, gardening, etc., compulsory. The government as well as the common people, appreciated his efforts and showered him with many honours.