Wallflowers

Every society continuously draws from its own past to re-define its collective aesthetic and it is quite often visible in clothing fashions, decorations in the home and of course in the revival of ideas. In this spirit it is a great idea and one that is rapidly gaining ground, to use vintage lithographs, advertising collaterals and textiles to refresh home décor, add a new stroke of color and texture and still find something that would fit in harmoniously with contemporary art pieces and themes.

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Contemporary home décor is a lot of things nowadays; what it certainly isn’t, are plumes of peonies and morning glory wines lacing the walls. There are no beleaguered warships stuck in a raging ocean neither are there pictures of gods and goddesses, unless of course they were painted by Raja Ravi Varma. And in case you were not planning to break the bank and buy an original, the artist’s oleographs and lithographs will do the trick!

Raja Ravi Varma was one of the foremost Indian artists of the mid-1800s to the turn of the century and is credited with infusing traditional Indian artistic argot with European techniques. He is also credited as being the first artist to make art accessible to the masses with oleographs and chromolithographs of his paintings made in the ‘Raja Ravi Varma Press’ that he started in 1894 in Mumbai. These lithographs and oleographs as well as prints of the original make great art and are adorning more and more homes nowadays.

Vintage Lithographs are a peep into a bygone era, when the technologies available to us today were perhaps the dreams of a select few. Case in point is the era before viable, commercial photography was available to the masses. While explorers, travelers and tradesman visited far flung regions and could tell tales of the mesmerizing new lands, their people, flora and fauna; their rapt listeners had no way of seeing them. Neither could botanists who would have loved to explore these new types of grains, fruits and vegetable and see what they were made of and whether they could be grown in their own lands to enhance food supply. Enter botanical lithographs, painted by artists to show each and every aspect of a new plant. Skilfully painted, these lithographs would give any home a touch of elegance and old world charm. Vintage botanical prints are also a great way to bring some summer and spring colors into your home.

If floral prints and deities are too staid for you , try placing a collage of framed textile labels from a century ago on to the central wall of your living room and get an instant conversation starter. Textile labels were one of the first advertising tools used in the 1800s and made an appearance at a time when most fabric in India was imported from textile mills in Manchester, United Kingdom. During the British rule, India was importing huge amounts of processed cotton and other fabrics from Manchester. ‘Intending Agents’ booked orders from wholesalers in India, assigned them an illustrated ‘label’ of their choice and sent a copy of the label to the manufacturer. When the finished product was ready to be shipped in the form of huge bales of cloth, these pre-chosen labels were slapped on them for advertising the mills and as signifiers of the shipments’ final destination.

It is interesting to note that the imagery used on these labels, most of which were mass printed in European countries like Germany, was dominated by color illustrations of Hindu gods and goddesses in an attempt to connect with consumers who had no direct contact with the producers. These labels, originally created only as a utility item in a business process, are today important collectibles and part of India’s flourishing visual arts culture.

Traditional Indian art forms like Saanjhi, a traditional folk art that uses the paper-cutting technique, the distinctive Kalighat style of painting also known as the Kalighat Patua paintings, an art form that originated in 19th century Bengal, in the vicinity of Kali Temple in Kolkata. ‘Patuas’ are wandering scroll painters from several districts of Bengal who settled down near the Kalighat temple to paint their depictions of Gods and Goddesses as well as scenes from contemporary life and times, often with a dose of wry humor. These are priceless collectibles for the discerning décor aficionado and art lover and make delectable wall art.

Vintage textiles, collected over long periods of time by connoisseurs, valued for their rarity and imperfections; the hallmark of all things handmade; add a new dimension to a home’s interior décor. Kutchi embroidery, vintage hand-painted Madhubani wall hangings or vintage Rajasthani miniatures are discerning choices for wall art and lend character to a home – one that is loved and lived in.

Image Credits: www.jaypore.com & Bina Ramani.

This article was first published in POOL Magazine.