Mahadev Vishvanath Dhurandhar (1867-1944) was one of the most successful and remarkable Indian painters in the early 20th century. Born in Maharashtra, his talent as a painter was apparently recognized at an early age. He made his way to the J.J. School of Art in Bombay in 1890. Founded by a Parsee businessman, Sir Jamsetjee Jijibhai (Jeejeebhoy) in 1857, it was run during its formative years by J. Lockwood Kipling, Rudyard Kipling's father and an important artist and educator. The school had a number of European art teachers who brought Western painting, sculpture and other art styles and techniques to an enormously talented group of Indian artists. From Akbar Padamsee to Dadasaheb Phalke (the father of Indian cinema) and Syed Haider Raza, numerous important Indian artists studied at the J.J. School of Art.
M.V. Dhurandhar distinguished himself at the school in his early twenties. In 1896 he became an instructor at the school. In 1910 he became a Headmaster and later the first Indian Director of the School.
Dhurandhar was incredibly prolific. He is said to have made some 5,000 paintings and tens of thousands of illustrations. This illustrations included a number of watercolor and gouache works, which were turned into lithographic prints like the illustrations for Women of India by Otto Rothfield (1920). Dhurandhar was also an accomplished postcard designer
, and published some of the earliest postcards by an Indian artist soon after 1900. He drew a number of postcard scenes published by Dadasaheb Phalke's Lakshmi Art Printing Works as well.
Dhurandhar provided the illustrations for the book By-Ways of Bombay (1912) by S.M. Edwardes, the civilian head of Bombay's police force and an accomplished writer. He made religious illustrations published by the Ravi Varma Press, and had his work honored at numerous festivals abroad. Dhurandhar left an autobiography, which has not been translated from the Maharashtran. His daughter Ambika Dhurandhar, also a painter and J.J. School of Art student did much to preserve his work and heritage.
Little research has been done on Dhuranadhar in the English language. Partha Mitter has a chapter on him in his groundbreaking Art and Nationalism in Colonial India 1850-1920 (Cambridge University Press, 1994), and there is the revealing article "Picture Postcards by M.V. Dhurandhar: Scenes and Types of India-with a Difference," by Allan Life
in Visual Resources (XVII, pp. 401-416, 2001).
Dhurandhar's most remarkable skill was his ability to convey personality and drama through his characters. Whether it is the illustrations in Women of India, or the figures in his postcards and paintings, every person he drew has character or a distinctive action element that makes them memorable.