Date(s) - 16/03/2015 - 24/03/2015
Over a century after Georges Gasté’s death in Madurai, the Alliance française du Bengale, in partnership with the Institut Français en Inde, offers a new life to the photographic work of this French Orientalist painter.
Having previously lived in Algeria and Egypt, in 1905 Constant-Georges Gasté settled in north India, making it the subject of his paintings and photos. His Indian paintings were exhibited at Orientalist Salons from 1906 receiving rave reviews all around. This artist with a wild nature and who tried throughout his life to run away from the spotlight then became, in 1907, the official correspondent of the Orientalist painters’ society in India. In 1908, after a trip to Venice and then to Constantinople, following in the footsteps of Pierre Loti, he returned to India to “unravel the mysteries” of this country. This time, he settled in Madurai. In his work from this period on, his palette is enlivened by warm shades and enamelled glow, bringing to mind Gustave Moreau: Une Dewa-dassy (Devadasi), prêtresse et servante des dieux (priestesses and servant of the Gods), [Orsay Museum]. He was unanimously celebrated/hailed as THE Indian Painter for each Orientalist exhibition at the Grand Palais. Le Bain des brahmines (The Brahmins’ Bath) [Orsay Museum], which Gasté considers as his most accomplished work, was exhibited at the Orientalist Salon in 1910 to critical acclaim.
The project, ‘Georges Gasté in India: 1905-1910,’ comprises 34 photographs taken by Georges Gasté during his sojourn in India in the first decade of the 20th century. Along with these will be showcased colour reproductions of his paintings and a few of the letters written by the artist. A documentary film on Gasté’s life will also be screened. In the 19th century, while journeys to the East was most often adopted as a way to fuel the fantasies of some Europeans, artists like Gasté refused to cater to this. In addition to the remarkable composition and lighting effects, his work presents an ethnographic interest: due to the proximity between the painter and local populations, these photos narrate the everyday life in Agra, Benares, Delhi, and Madurai. This exhibition is a tribute to a painter who went against tradition and took interest in India instead of North Africa or the Middle East. It is a collection of his works created after having lived in the native environment, moving away from a colonial society in which he didn’t fit in.
The exhibition will be inaugurated by Mr. Fabrice Etienne, Consul General of France in Calcutta and by Ms Minakshi Mishra, Director of ICCR Kolkata, on 16 March at 6 pm.