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Iconic Photo of the Progressive Artists’ Group and Their Associates

  • There are two versions of the PAG photo at the opening of M.F. Husain's first solo exhibition in 1950 (published in 1996 and 2003) and two narratives about the opening.
  • Photograph
  • Iconic Photo of the Progressive Artists’ Group and Their Associates

    Word Count: 10

  • Bombay Art Society
  • 1950
  • National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) Mumbai, Sir Cowasji Jehangir Public Hall, Mahatma Gandhi Road, Fort, Mumbai (Photo exhibited, first published 1996); Bombay Art Society Salon, (Ador House) 6 Rampart Row, Kala Ghoda, Bombay (6, K Dubash Marg, Kala Ghoda, Fort, Mumbai (Photo taken, 1950).

  • National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), Mumbai

  • Mumbai (IN)
  • There are two versions of the PAG photo at the opening of M.F. Husain's first solo exhibition in 1950 (published in 1996 and 2003) and two narratives about the opening.

    Word Count: 28

  • There are two versions of the Progressive Artists’ Group photo taken at the opening of Maqbol Fida Husain's first solo exhibition, in 1950 and two narratives about the opening.
    After the Second World War and India’s independence, Walter and Käthe Langhammer, Rudolf von Leyden and Emanuel Schlesinger, all emigrants from the informal Central European art circle, became active members of the Bombay Art Society. Their aim was to support the spirit of optimism among the artists of the most important art-political institution in Bombay and pave the way for national and international modern trends. In 1949 and 1950, Käthe Langhammer was an active member of the Bombay Art Society Committee. Together with Kekoo Gandhy, she was given the task of organising exhibitions by contemporary Indian artists.
    On 3 February, 1950, M.F. Husain’s first solo exhibition opened in the salon of the Bombay Art Society in Rampart Row in Kala Ghoda. That evening, an unidentified photographer took the iconic photo of the Progressive Artists’ Group (PAG) and their associates. K.H. Ara, Husain and S.K. Bakre were present from among the founding members of the PAG, and Krishen Khanna, Tyeb Mehta, Bal Chhabda, V.S. Gaitonde and Laxman Pai from the second generation of the PAG. F.N. Souza had already moved to London. The Leyden brothers, Rudi and Albrecht, are also missing.
    Husain proudly presented his paintings by sitting among his admirers and well-wishers in front of the masterpiece of the exhibition, his iconic painting Man (for colour photo of the painting, see Maqbol Fida Husain). It is a deep visual study of mankind; amidst all the turmoil, chaos, upside-down-ness, seductions and temptations the man lingers silently in Rodin's Thinker's pose. Is it the chaos of India after independence with all the violence of Partition? The Muslim-born Husain had stayed in Hindu-dominated India; a figure on the left seems to be waving goodbye. Is it the course of life that moves in front of his inner eye when he is in an extreme situation, just before he leaves this world, just before he dies? The stoic man in the middle is still sitting surrounded by canvases. The nearer the extremities, the more chaos and anarchy arise. The man symbolises silence in turbulent times, inner peace in places of chaos. In his opening speech, Emanuel Schlesinger made a similar interpretation and said: “as the country was under a transitional period there was no homogeneity in modern art. What was necessary for an artist was a settled atmosphere.“ (Anonymous 1950, 8). The man reflects this calmness, this settled mind.
    Almost half a century later, Yashodhara Dalmia curated the inaugural exhibition at Mumbai’s National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) The Moderns (see for photos: Ganguly, n.d.). The group photo first featured prominently in the 1996 exhibition catalogue. Newspapers and magazines began reprinting the photo. Seven years later, the Chemould Gallery decided to print their version of the photo on the cover of The Perfect Frame: Presenting Modern Indian Art. Stories and photographs from the collection of Kekoo Gandhy (Zitzewitz 2003). It is the centrepiece of the book that depicts and symbolises Kekoo Gandhy's activities in the art world of Bombay and India. The photo version of Gandhy is lighter and more lively. It seems to be the moment after the photographer asked everyone to look at the camera and smile. There is a sense of ease in Gandhy´s photo: Mulk Raj Anand is reading a note, G.M. Hazarnis is seated, Käthe Langhammer and Emanuel Schlesinger look to the left with a smile, T.A. Schinzel fools around behind Khorshed Gandhy, V. S. Gaitonde, A.A. Almelkar and Tyeb Mehta look towards Schinzel and laugh at his prank. Kekoo Gandhy, instead of looking at the camera, seems to be day-dreaming.
    Two versions of a photo that made art history in India and two versions of the story of the opening ceremony. The Times of India reported the opening by Schlesinger on the evening of 3 February 1950 and wrote "he classed the paintings of Mr. Husain with the work of foreign artists” (Anonymous 1950, 8). But Käthe Langhammer remembers the opening thus: “Husain’s first one-man show that I opened. Percy Brown, the famous historian of Indian art, was there” (Langhammer 1993, n.p.). Oral history has its weaknesses, but correspondence between Souza and Raza confirms Mrs. Langhammer’s version. Did the Langhammer-Schlesinger duo open the exhibition – Käthe was friendly with “Schle”, as she called him – as a power balancing act or an elegant way to enable an ordinary woman to open an exhibition in the male-run art circles of Bombay? Or can the truth or parts of the truth – or even more – be found in Souza’s words? Or are these the words of an artist struggling to survive, who has just left a supportive privileged environment, defiant, hurt, insecure and without gender awareness. In any case, the words show upheavals among the artists as well as a more frictional relationship between the artists and their Central European followers.
    “Have you heard from Husain? I haven’t yet. Do you know who opened his exhibition? Of all the persons, that old gypsy woman, Mrs. Longhammar! [sic!] After Ara asked Mrs. Leyden to open his exhibition [Nena von Leyden opened Ara´s exhibition of 77 still lives in the Bombay Art Society Salon 7 September 1950 (Art Exhibition), MF], I can well understand Katy´s feelings. ‘O! Walter, I too, must open somebody´s exhibition.’
    It was alright if she had opened some Desai´s or Kulkarni´s show. But I was amazed beyond measure that Husain has fallen for this kind of feeble sophistication. I had written to him that I thought the only artist who has conscience, in Bombay, was he. But now I hardly think so.
    This whole ‘art’ business has become so detestable, that I don´t think that I will ever go back to India.”(Letter from Souza to Raza, Paris, 1 April 1910 [sic!] [most likely 1950, MF]; printed in Vajpeyi 2013, 57f).

    Word Count: 997

  • The iconic photo of the Progressive Artists’ Group and their associates, 1950 (Digital Photo Archive Margit Franz © Gandhy Archive, Mumbai; All Rights Reserved). First row: (seated, from left) Dr. Mulk Raj Anand, Siloo Bharucha, Renu Khanna, K.H. Ara, M.F. Husain (in black headgear, seated in front of everyone else), Bal Chhabda, unknown, G.M. Hazarnis (holding folder). Second row: (seated, from left) unknown, unknown, Laxman Pai, Käthe Langhammer (black dress with white framed collar), Emanuel Schlesinger. Third row: (standing, from left) Dr. Percy Brown, Khorshed Gandhy, T.A. Schinzel (behind Mrs. Gandhy), Krishen Khanna (in striped tie), Sadanand Bakre (with glasses, just behind Khanna), D.G. Kulkarni (with glasses, near Bakre), V.S. Gaitonde (to Kulkarni’s left), A.A. Amelkar, Tyeb Mehta, Shiavax Chavda (with hands folded), Walter Langhammer (in dark tie), Kekoo Gandhy, Manishi Dey. Last row: (standing) all four men are unknown.
  • First publication of the iconic photo of the Progressive Artists’ Group and their associates in the catalogue for the inauguration of the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) Mumbai, 1996 (Photo: Yashodhara Dalmia, 2020).
    Another moment from the same lineup: the historic snapshot from Khorshed and Kekoo Gandhy’s archive on the front-page of their book The Perfect Frame. Presenting Modern Indian Art. Stories and Photographs from the collection of Kekoo Gandhy (Zitzewitz 2003, front page).
    Dr. Percy Brown, Käthe Langhammer and M.F. Husain in front of Husain´s ground-breaking painting Man during the evening of the opening on 3 February 1950 (Dalmia 2001, 103; authorized by Yashodhara Dalmia).
  • Anonymous. “Art Exhibition.” The Times of India, 8 September 1950, p. 7.

    Anonymous. “Homogeneity in Art.” The Times of India, February 4, 1950, p. 8.

    Bhagwat, Nalini. “Development of Contemporary Art in Western India.” (Doctoral thesis Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, 1983), Accessed 9 April 2021.

    Dalmia, Yashodhara. The Making of Modern Indian Art: The Progressives. Oxford University Press, 2001.

    Dalmia, Yashodhara. “The Rise of Modern Art and the Progressives.” The Progressive Revolution. Modern Art for a New India, edited by Zehra Jumabhoy and Boon Hui Tan, exh. cat. Asia Society Museum, New York, 2018, pp. 29–39.

    Dalmia, Yashodhara. “Re: Kaethe Langhammer.” Received by Margit Franz, 30 March 2020.

    Dalmia, Yashodhara. “Photo.” Received by Margit Franz, 3 April 2020.

    Franz, Margit. “From Dinner Parties to Galleries: The Langhammer-Leyden-Schlesinger Circle in Bombay – 1940s through the 1950s.” Arrival Cities. Migrating Artists and New Metropolitan Topographies in the 20th Century, edited by Burcu Dogramaci et al., Leuven University Press, 2020, pp. 73–90. Project Muse, doi: 10.1353/book.77990. Accessed 30 March 2021.

    Franz, Margit. “Die multiplen Identitäten und Loyalitäten der Käthe Langhammer.” Das Exil von Frauen. Historische Perspektive und Gegenwart (biografiA. Neue Ergebnisse der Frauenbiografieforschung, 26), edited by Ilse Korotin and Ursula Stern, Praesens Verlag, 2020, pp. 148–167.

    Ganguly, Nanak. “Progressive Art Group Show: The Moderns. Revisited.” art etc. news & views, February 2012, Accessed 5 April 2021.

    Mumbai Modern: Progressive Artistsʼ Group 1947–2013, edited by Kishore Singh, exh. cat., Delhi Art Gallery, New Delhi, 2013.  

    Sharpe, Gemma. “Maqbool Fida Husain. Man.” Postwar at Haus der Kunst, Accessed 8 April 2021.

    Vajpeyi, Ashok, and Shruthi Issac, editors. Geyers: Letters Between Raza & Akbar Padamsee, Bal Chhabda, E. Schlesinger, F.N. Souza, Laxman Pai, M.F. Husain, R.V. Leyden, S.K. Bakre, Tyeb Mehta, V.S. Gaitonde, Ram Kumar, Walter Longhammar (Raza correspondence, vol 2). Vadehra Art Gallery, n.d. [2013].

    Zitzewitz, Karin. The Perfect Frame: Presenting Modern Indian Art. Stories and Photographs from the Collection of Kekoo Gandhy. Chemould Publications and Arts, 2003.

    Word Count: 320

  • Archival records from personal interviews between the author and Khorshed and Kekoo Gandhy, Mumbai, 30 April to 3 May 2003; 18 to 22 January 2004; 26 April to 12 May 2007; 13 to 15 October 2008; 24 October 2010.
    Archival records from a personal interview between Yashodhara Dalmia and Maseeh Rahman and Käthe Langhammer, London, August 1993 (Digital Private Archive Margit Franz).
    Private Archive Margit Franz, Sinabelkirchen.
    Private Archive of late Khorshed & Kekoo Gandhy, Mumbai.

    Word Count: 62

  • Margit Franz
  • Bombay
  • No
  • Margit Franz. "Iconic Photo of the Progressive Artists’ Group and Their Associates." METROMOD Archive, 2021,, last modified: 14-09-2021.
  • Mulk Raj Anand
    WriterPhilosopherArt PatronCultural Critic

    As a global socialist and modernist, Mulk Raj Anand sought and shaped opportunities for intellectual exchanges between Asia and Europe.

    Word Count: 20

    Kekoo Minochair Gandhy
    Frame Shop OwnerGalleristArt Collector

    Starting from a cosmopolitan milieu for young local artists, Kekoo and his wife Khorshed Gandhy developed a business model that turned the frame shop into Gallery Chemould.

    Word Count: 27

    Rudolf von Leyden
    GeologistAdvertisement SpecialistJournalistArt CriticArt CollectorCartoonist

    The advertisement expert, Rudolf von Leyden, became a major art critic and art historian in Bombay in the 1940s, advocating an urgent need for modernism in art in post-colonial India.

    Word Count: 30

    Hilde Holger

    Hilde Holger brought her expressionist dance practice from Vienna to Bombay, collaborating with local and exile artists, and opening a dance school.

    Word Count: 22

    Charles Petras
    JournalistDirectorLanguage TeacherWriterTheatre MakerArt ManagerTranslator

    Charles Petras was the founder and director of the international cultural centre Institute of Foreign Languages, an avant-garde theatre director and a very active promoter of international understanding and world peace.

    Word Count: 31

    Marg. A Magazine of Architecture and Art

    Local and exiled creatives formed the Modern Architectural Research Group to publish a progressive journal of art and architecture in Bombay from 1946 onwards.

    Word Count: 23

    Picture of Rudi von Leyden’ s Bust by Sadanand K. Bakre

    The picture of the previously lost and recently located sculpture by Sadanand K. Bakre reflects the relationship between the artist Bakre and the art critic Rudi von Leyden.

    Word Count: 28

    One Man exhibition and subsequent trial, Akbar Padamsee
    Court Case

    Akbar Padamsee’s solo exhibition in Bombay in 1954 was overshadowed by his arrest on charge of displaying obscene pictures. The subsequent court case drew support from across the art world.

    Word Count: 30

    Open Studio Evenings by Käthe and Walter Langhammer

    The painter Walter Langhammer and his wife Käthe built an informal infrastructure to promote local avant-garde artists and regularly invited them to Open Studio Evenings at their studio.

    Word Count: 29

    University / Higher Education Institute / Research Institute

    The TIFR is one of India’s premier scientific institutions. Inside its buildings, scientists ponder over path-breaking ideas. Also, within its hallowed walls is a fine collection of modern Indian art.

    Word Count: 31

    Institute of Foreign Languages
    Language SchoolExhibition SpaceLibraryTheatre

    With its wide range of cultural activities, the Institute of Foreign Languages − founded in 1946 by the Viennese emigrant Charles Petras − became a glocal contact zone in Bombay.

    Word Count: 27

    Bombay Art Society

    One of the oldest art societies in India founded by colonial rulers, Bombay Art Society showcased art students and professional artists from all over India, including the Progressive Artists of Bombay.

    Word Count: 31

    GalleryFrame Shop

    Chemould’s history stretches from its beginnings as a manufacturer of chemical mouldings and frames in 1941 over to a hub for art circulation displaying a variety of artists in Bombay.

    Word Count: 30

    Emanuel Schlesinger
    Factory OwnerTechnical DirectorArt CollectorArt Critic

    The art collector Schlesinger provided primarily financial aid by creating working opportunities for young artists in post-independence Bombay, and initiated the corporate culture of buying art.

    Word Count: 26