Devotee - Oil on Canvas by M. V. Dhurandhar - 1924

M. V. Dhurandhar (1867-1944)

Mahadev Visvanath Dhurandhar was also called Rao Bahadur, a title bestowed on him by the British government, was the first Indian director of the Sir J. J. School of Art, Mumbai.

Dhurandhar was born in Kolhapur (a district in Maharashtra). His father understood and supported his son's extraordinary artistic talents and put him under the tutorship of famous painter Abalal Rehman. The next step was the Sir J J School of Art in Mumbai, which he joined in 1890.

Dhurandhar was exposed to the works of the European and British artist, what with the entire faculty at the school being from Britain. Unlike Eastern cultures, where art was oriented towards line drawing, in the West it was pictorial heavy. Fascinated by this form of art, Indian students too began emulating the European Academic Art form, and Dhurandhar was a product of the same school of art. He painted a lot of figurative works and studies of people like Raja Ravi Varma.

His famous painting, 'Women At Work', got him a British Government Award in 1892, while still a student. Yet another black and white illustration, 'Marriage Ceremony' won him a gold medal in 1908.

In 1896, Dhurandhar was invited by the Sir J. J. School of Art to join the institute as a teacher. In 1910, he was appointed the Principal, and in 1930, became the first Indian to be appointed director of the art school.

Dhurandhar rode the art scene in Mumbai in those years, and through his solo exhibitions as well as group shows, his works became popular among the classes and the masses. This at a time when a concept like solo shows was unheard of.

His works include more than 5,000 paintings and 50,000 illustrations. He won more than five gold medals, to say nothing of silver ones during his life. But by 1931, he sought retirement, three years after he was awarded the title of Rao Bahadur by the British government.

Mahadev Dhurandhar died in Mumbai. Many of his paintings were preserved by his daughter, Ambika, who was also a student of the Sir J J School of Art. One of his paintings still hangs at the Buckingham Palace, and another one is in the South Kensington Museum. Royal family palaces and maharaja retreats across India still own several of his works.