GARHWAL PAINTING
This sudden development can only be explained on one assumption - that outside artists had reached the court; and for determining the date of their arrival, we are fortunate in possessing some unusual kinds of evidence - the writings and pictures of the local artist, Mola Ram himself. Although striving to be a painter, Mola Ram (c. 1750-1833) was also a poet and collector of pictures. The latter were by several artists but in his collection, as it still existed in 1900, there were a number in similar style, all inscribed in Mola Ram's handwriting and notable for their harshness and crudity. In several cases, verses describe the actual pictures and declare that Mola Ram painted them. None of these pictures shows any sensitivity while in more than one case an exquisite prototype exists which proves that Mola Ram's versions are only clumsy copies. Yet, despite these mediocre accomplishments, so provincial was the Garhwal atmosphere that Mola Ram seems to have rated his productions highly and even to have thought himself a great artist. And it is this circumstance which probably explains his reactions when suddenly there arrived some superior painters. Their presence was clearly very unpalatable and it is significant that in the years 1769 and 1775, he wrote two poems each expressing a sense of bitter disillusion. In the first dated 1769, he wrote 'These are hard times. The officials and courtiers tell lies. Their eyes lie. The clerks lie. The paper lies. The ink lies. Everything is lies', while six years later, he declares 'What are thousands and lakhs? What are gold and villages? Mola Ram cares only for appreciation.' We do not know the exact circumstances in which these poems were written. But it is significant that both were written on pictures and bearing in mind Mola Ram's artistic pretensions, we can hardly doubt that they are related, in some way, to his fate as painter. If outside artists had been welcomed in Garhwal in 1769, the shock to Mola Ram's self-esteem could well explain the first embittered outcry. He would naturally attribute their position not to merit but to flattery, intrigues and 'lies'. He would argue that their success was only transitory and that he, Mola Ram, would triumph in the end. He would hesitate to abandon his current style and hence in 1771, his first fully dated picture still shows only the prosaic dullness of a provincial Mughal manner. If, however, a little later, other artists received encouragement or if the newcomers were now established, not only would Mola Ram be stung to fresh bitterness but he would realise that he must either desist from painting or adopt the new and fashionable technique. And this is precisely what appears to have occurred. In the poem dated 1775, he still pines for appreciation but the picture to which it forms the head-piece is the first of a series in crude but obvious line with the new Garhwal style. Such reactions point to only one conclusion — that certainly by 1775 and probably six to seven years earlier, the new school had come into being.

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