IN OUR RECORDED HISTORY, we remember legends for what they accomplished in their lifetime, and yet, invariably, reduce them to being just that one thing that we believe defined their raison d’être. Richard Bartholomew didn’t escape this slotting, either. We mostly remember him as one of India’s original art critics. However, 25 years after his death, his son, the gifted photographer Pablo Bartholomew, compels us to revisit his father’s life and to acknowledge him not merely for his unquestionable contribution to the evolution of modern Indian art, but also his spectacular achievements with the camera. During the 1960s and 70s, Richard Bartholomew keenly photographed life as it unfolded around him – his family, his travels in India as well the United States, and his relationships with artists.
In May 2008, Pablo exhibited some of his father’s photographs in a show titled ‘A Critic’s Eye’ held at Sepia International, New York. Just three blocks away at Bodhi Art on Manhattan’s 24th Street, Pablo was showing some of his own work, ‘Outside In,’ a visual diary of Delhi, Bombay and Calcutta in the 1970s and 80s. For Pablo, the show at Sepia International, though long overdue, was the culmination of months of labour with hours spent scanning and working on the 17,000 negatives that make up his father’s archive. Many of us, however, were introduced to this body of work only a year later when the show travelled to Photoink, a Delhi-based gallery dedicated to showcasing photography. Hung on the walls were photographs of some of India’s legendary artists, taken at a time when they were still struggling to articulate their creative vision.
This February, Chatterjee and Lal gallery in Mumbai will host a revised edition of ‘A Critic’s Eye,’ with some rare, previously unexhibited photographs by Richard Bartholomew. As a remembrance, and to mark the occasion of his first major exhibition in Mumbai, a book, also titled A Critic’s Eye, cataloguing the exhibition, will accompany the show.