Early Indian postcards were generally printed in Germany, as well as in France, Britain and Austria. Ravi Varma
was one of the exceptions, with his famous press outside Bombay printing postcards before 1900. Like most European and Asian postcards, the first Indian postcards date to the mid-1890s.
Some of the postcards in this collection were based on paintings by M.V. Dhurundhar
(1867-1944), one of the most remarkable early students of the J.J. School of Art in Bombay. Born in Kohlapur, Maharashtra, he was an award-winning student who attended the school from 1891 to 1895. His portraits of the newly wealthy Bombay merchants, with a tinge of darkness and profound realism, continue to stand out in the museums and galleries of South Bombay today. His Marwari woman
is one his most popular among perhaps hundreds of postcard images he published between 1900 and 1905.
Clifton & Co.,
the source of many other images, was another popular early postcard publisher. They published both their own images, and those of photographers like Fred Bremner.
Moorli Dhur & Sons
in Amballa and H.A. Mirza & Sons
in Delhi were two other prominent postcard publishers. Their work covered literally hundreds of locations, from the largest cities to the smallest cantonments. Like Raphael Tuck's
in London, Plate in Colombo and D.A. Ahuja
in Rangoon, these were among the leading all-India publishers of color postcards.
Other bigger Indian publishers included The Ravi Verma Press
and The Phototype Company
in Bombay (Mumbai). Amongst these, Ravi Varma was famous for his religious portraits and calendar-art printed in India. His works blended European realism and traditional Hindu mythological stories. Though he used indigenous paints prepared from tree bark, leaves, soil and flowers in his early days, Ravi Varma later switched to oil painting. In 1894, Ravi Varma established an oleographic press to reproduce his images on a large scale, and this press would play an important role in early postcard history in India.
Then there are the smaller print runs by painters like Joseph Hoffman
the Austrian and the British Mortimer Menpes, or an anonymous amateur
who published a series of his own paintings in 1910.
Early Indian postcards stand out for their large variety of photographers, publishers and styles.