Awareness about Indian art and artists is not completely lacking but is surely underrated and diffused. Will the generation next ever learn about the rich art that its country claims ownership of or about the home-grown geniuses responsible for it? Since an interest in art is very subjective, Anjali Raghbeer hopes to at least initiate a dialogue with her Looking at Art series for children published by Tulika that introduces them to the life and work of four great artists that India should take pride in. “In the West, everyone markets their art so well. Everyone would know the Mona Lisa. But nobody will know which is Hussain’s or Ravi Varma’s best painting” — this was her motivation to work on an unlikely set of books on artists for children.Explaining her choice of artists, Anjali says “We went with ‘who are the top five’ and thought we’ll do them geographically — North – Amrita Sher-Gil; South – Ravi Varma; East – Jamini Roy; West – M.F. Hussain, with Souza being the other choice. If you were to name the top five contemporary artists in India you would actually come up with these names and it was fortunate that they were from different parts.
But the best in the series is arguably ‘My name is Amrita…’ born to be an artist. “I wanted children to see it from her point of view, see into her mind, her sensitivity, her genius and how it developed. In the short span of 28 years that she lived she was the top” says Anjali who in this book, unlike the others, has used excerpts from the artist’s own diary entries that were usually accompanied by illustrations by Amrita herself. It is indeed interesting to actually see these illustrations evolve over the years from a childish doodle to mature sketches as Amrita grows.