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Welcome to The Hartwick Collection of Vintage Bollywood Art.

The story of this collection has been in the making for 50 years.  It started with the intuition of a little boy in Bombay in the 1950s who loved to go to the movies.  He saw the beauty in these works - that were meant to be thrown away - and collected them piece by piece.

Nearly half a century later, I came across these showcards in a dusty, thriving bazaar in Bombay (now Mumbai) and saw that same beauty.  I didn't know how, but I knew I could be an instrument to bring these works together and share them with a global audience.
So over several years, many trips to India, and countless hours of learning about Bollywood and its far-reaching cultural influence, I ended up with over 200 pieces of cinema history hanging on every wall, stacked beside my refrigerator and under my bed.  

In 2010, Dr. Deepali Dewan, curator of South Asian Visual Culture at the Royal Ontario Museum, heard about my collection of showcards. I went to Toronto to meet her, bringing a few of the artworks with me.  Subsequently, she spent a year researching and writing about the collection, her work culminating in the ROM's 2011 major exhibition and accompanying catalogue Bollywood Cinema Showcards, Indian Film Art from the 1950s to the 1980s. Showcards from the Hartwick Collection.  We've come a long way!

So to each of you who has found your way here, I invite you to take a moment to discover this journey through cinema, art and history.  Enjoy!

        -- Angela Hartwick, director of The Hartwick Collection

For more on the history of The Hartwick Collection of Vintage Bollywood Art, watch The Showcards, a short film documenting the origins of the collection.

The Hartwick Collection

The Hartwick Collection, a private art collection owned by Angela Hartwick and her husband Daryl Visscher, consists of over 300 works of art. It includes paintings, illustration, photography and textiles.

Ms. Hartwick and Mr. Visscher, both Canadian, have lived abroad since 1996.  During their extensive travels they have amassed several distinct collections including Middle Eastern textiles and one of the world’s most acclaimed collections of Indian cinema art.

The Hartwick Collection of Vintage Bollywood Art has been researched and written about extensively, most notably in the book Bollywood Cinema Showcards: Indian Film Art from the 1950s to the 1980s. Showcards from The Hartwick Collection, a 120-page hardcover book published by the Royal Ontario Museum in conjunction with a major exhibition of works from The Hartwick Collection. 

Works from The Hartwick Collection have been exhibited around the world.

The Hartwick Collection of Vintage Bollywood Art

The Hartwick Collection of Vintage Bollywood Art forms a vibrant and comprehensive retrospective of post-colonial Indian culture. This rare collection of hand-painted, unique works of art features Bollywood icons and award-winning films spanning 30 years of India's cinema history.  It provides an exceptional case study of this little-known form of cinema art.

Notable among the works are the original showcards from the release of Mera Naam Joker, Raj Kapoor’s masterpiece and winner of 5 Filmfare Awards in 1970.  Also featured are showcards from the award-winning films Aarti (starring Meena Kumari), Kala Bazaar (starring Dev Anand), and the critically acclaimed, 1977 classic, Swami (starring Shabana Azmi), winner of 3 Filmfare Awards that year.

What is a Showcard?

'Showcards are photo collages using film stills that have been cut out and assembled on a board and hand-painted.  As such, they are unique works of art, combining old and new painting styles with photographic technology, resulting in dramatic compositions with expressive uses of colour.  

While billboards and posters are a part of global cinema advertising practice, handmade showcards seem to be uniquely South Asian.  Showcards were produced in sets and displayed in glass cases outside cinema theatres or in lobby areas, sometimes in combination with lobby cards.  They were the final lens through which an audience would contemplate a movie before seeing it.  They conveyed the visual and emotional range of a film through colour, composition, facial expression, and gesture.  

By assembling pieces cut from film stills using strategies of overlapping and juxtaposition, the showcard artist essentially reinterpreted the narrative of the movie and brought it together in new ways.  Paint was used not as much for the purposes of realism but rather for its expressive, symbolic, or affective potential.  In the end, showcards were meant to draw the viewers into the narrative of the film, to make them desire to see it or enhance their experience of seeing it.  

This collection traces the evolution of Bollywood showcards as a form of graphic design for four decades—from the 1950s, just after Indian Independence, to the 1980s, just before India’s entry into the global economy.

Showcards provide insight into the use of photography and paint-- seemingly opposite mediums -- in the history of South Asian visual culture.  
While showcards have been described as photo-collage on top of paint or paint on top of photo-collage, examples in The Hartwick Collection show that there was a fluid relationship between the two.  
The showcard for Swami (1977) shows the co-existence of two distinct painterly styles over the cut-out of Shahbana Azmi: a photo-realistic wash over her face and hands and a more abstract impasto layering of paint to render the pink sari over her shoulder.  Even her hair has been enhanced with strokes of black paint to bring out the photograph as well as a few imaginative wisps not present in the photograph.  Further, paint is used not so much for the purposes of realism-- although that is there-- as to convey emotion, to soften the edges around a photographic cut-out, and to provide theatre-like lighting effects that seem to lift the faces of the main characters from the two-dimensional surface.'

--Text by Dr. Deepali Dewan and Alexandra McCarter, based on Deepali Dewan, ed. Bollywood Cinema ShowcardsIndian Film Art from the 1950s to the 1980s. Showcards from The Hartwick Collection. Toronto: Royal Ontario Museum Press, 2011. Copyright of and reproduced here with the generous permission of the Royal Ontario Museum.

Excerpt from the Essay 'The Showcard: Travelling Still'

by Kajri Jain, PhD Art History, Professor of Visual Culture at University of Toronto

“The significance of these showcards, then, far exceeds the stories told by the films they first advertised, or by the graphic elements within their own still frames.  When placed within the broader frame of the vernacular culture industries, they told the story of the exchanges between a range of image-making techniques, and as objects with ongoing biographies they too, like the films, tell the story of a global cultural economy- as objects that are also travelling, still.”

--Text by Dr. Kajri Jain, Bollywood Cinema ShowcardsIndian Film Art from the 1950s to the 1980s. Showcards from The Hartwick Collection. Toronto: Royal Ontario Museum Press, 2011. Copyright of and reproduced here with the generous permission of the Royal Ontario Museum.