The Artisans’ craft gallery in Kala Ghoda is showcasing 100 pieces of calendar art this week, from August 9 to 11. These intricate reproductions, printed using special techniques, mirror the texture and appearance of an oil painting. But calendar art is more than just skilled reproduction.
Until paintings began to be reproduced as carefully calibrated prints in the late 1800s, art was the exclusive domain of the wealthy in India. It was Raja Ravi Varma, the famed Travancore painter, who first began to create these lithographs of his exquisite, intricate works, making them available for a few paise to a few rupees.
These reproductions — particularly those of religious figures — soon began to feature in increasingly popular calendars, which themselves then took on a sacred quality for many buyers, and the genre came to be called calendar art.
The production of oleographs and lithographs stopped in mid-1900s, when the printing method became obsolete. Almost five decades later, these are works are now making a comeback, with works that cost Rs50 at Chor Bazaar in 1990 now selling for Rs25,000 at the same stores.
“I thought it would be a good idea to show rare calendar art themed on Krishna around Janmashtami," says Radhi Parekh, director of Artisans’. “We have painstakingly collected top-quality works.”
The Artisans’ exhibition follows a successful auction of 10 calendar art works by Osian’s on July 31 — original paintings of Bollywood stars such as Waheeda Rehman, Mumtaz, Hema Malini Sridevi and Jayalalitha, which were later reproduced in calendars.