We had first visited Dhar almost exactly eight years ago. One evening the lady running the hotel told us about a sculptor who settled in Dhar in 1933, ran a studio and trained students for forty years, until his death. She told us that the family still had some of his unsold pieces, and that she could arrange a visit to the studio if we wanted. We did, and she talked to someone on the phone and sent us along. This is the place now called the Phadke Studio of Dhar.
Raghunath Krishna Phadke was famous enough in his time that in 1961 he won the Padma Shri, one of India’s highest civilian awards. If you entertain the vain hope that the awards website of the government will have some information on him, click here to be disappointed. Wikipedia has more information, such as his year of birth (1884) and date of death (17 May 1972). I got some more information from a ten year old a blog post by Anil Gulati.
The studio was an interesting experience, busts in an academic style lined up in rows. After seeing these, I guessed that Raghunath Phadke would have been educated in the J. J. School of Arts in Mumbai, which, by 1891, had a department of sculpture and modelling. I asked the caretaker of the studio, but he did not know. It seems that Mr. Phadke was instrumental in founding the Government Institute of Fine Arts in Dhar and obtaining an affiliation with the J. J. School. This small institute opened on 24 November, 1939, and continues to award a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts even today. The caretaker also told us that Mr. Phadke’s own personal legacy of arts can be seen in busts installed in public places in Dhar, Indore and Ujjain. I’m afraid I did not look carefully for statues which could have been by the premier artist of Dhar.