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Somnath Hore - Important Prints & Other Works

Somnath Hore's pictorial language in his sketches, sculptures, and prints is more often a reaction to one of the major crises that hit Bengal in the 20th century. Here we focus on his printmaking.  

In simple terms, a print is created where ink is transferred from a block or plate on to a paper. Depending on the technique used, there are different outcomes and as a result, they have been further divided into categories. Each printing technique has its distinctive style depending on the tools and materials used.

Initially, early printmaking was made to make multiple copies of the same work because it was much faster than making each one by hand. It was only later that people realized that the drawing that went into print could be made to be art on its own. It did not have to be a supplement; it could be its creation. Therefore many artworks were conceived and created directly in print form.

Somnath Hore

Born in 1921 in Chittagong, undivided India, Somnath Hore studied at the Government Art College in Calcutta. 

Somnath Hore’s art practice was western and academic in style. He was interested in humanist themes, and his works often involved the world of painting and printmaking with sculptural, textural prints that resonated with his feelings of anger and pain. His subject matter drew attention to the life of people in Bengal; the impoverished and suffering social class represented the pain caused by the Famine of 1943. The subject matter was used to arouse patriotic fervor when the British used their scorched earth policy during World War II.

In 1958, Somnath Hore moved to Delhi to join the Delhi Polytechnic. He experimented and analyzed different methods of printmaking such as wood engraving, etching, lithograph, and drypoint to negotiate with his political image-making. His prints started gaining attention and prominence across the country and were referred to by his contemporaries in the cultural field. In 1969, he moved to Santiniketan and joined the Printmaking Department at Kala Bhavan.

It is here in Santiniketan that Somnath Hore developed his pulp print technique with the Wound series. The meditative white on the white surface texture of cuts and peels, of skinned and bruised, intensified the core expression of pain and suffering which he advocated throughout his life. The icon represented the helpless, deserted, starved, and tortured people that he saw during the communal riots and Bengal famine.

His etchings represent a time when he moved on from semi representational works to abstract works. The viscosity technique utilizes a combination of relief printmaking and intaglio printmaking methods to create a multicolored print.

Some definitions are as follows:

Intaglio prints use a method where an image is cut or incised onto a surface and the sunken area traps and hold the ink. Usually, copper or zinc plates are used as the surface, and incisions are made on it which is then coated with a paper. As the ink settles into the grooves and the surface is wiped clean of ink, the paper has a lot of pressure put on it so the ink can transfer completely. The image on the paper then has a 3D looking effect.

Intaglio print process (Source: Wikipedia)

 

(Source: Wikimedia)

 

The etching is a printmaking technique that uses chemical action to produce incised lines in a metal printing plate which then hold the applied ink and form the image. The plate is prepared with an acid-resistant ground and lines are drawn through the ground, exposing the metal. The plate is then immersed in acid and the exposed metal produces incised lines. The surface is wiped and the plate is then placed against paper and passed through a printing press with great pressure to transfer the ink from the recessed lines.


Rembrandt Self Portrait Etching (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The aquatint is an intaglio printmaking technique that is used to create tonal effects rather than lines. Fine particles of acid-resistant material are attached to a printing plate by heating. The plate is then immersed in an acid bath that eats into the metal around the particles to create tiny indented rings. These hold sufficient ink to give the effect of an area of wash when inked and printed. The technique was developed in France in the 1760s and became popular in Britain in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.


(Source: JuliaLacey.com)

Relief printing is when a printing block has ink on its surface but not on any sunken areas. The plates are brought into contact with the paper and the sunken areas leave a black space on the papers. Usually, the paper is pressed by hand or with a roller. In relief processes, the negative, or non-printing part of the block or plate, is either cut or etched away. The print looks like it is a positive image and represents the printing surface.


(Source: Wikipedia)

A woodcut is the earliest known relief-printing method, dating back to the 15th to 16th centuries. In this method, the design is first drawn and the surface of the wood is cut away around the design. When printed, the carved out areas remain white and the remaining area collects the ink.


(Source: metmuseum.org)


Wood-Engraving

Wood engraving is a newer version of a woodcut. It was invented by Thomas Bewick in the 18th century. Instead of carving along the grain, the artist cuts into the end of the block of wood. This is very expensive as one needs a section of unblemished wood from a large hardwood tree trunk or branch.

Viscosity print is a printing technique that incorporates elements from relief and intaglio print at the same time. Different colors of varying viscosities are used from a singular plate. This process was used much faster and the colors could be added in one go. Using multiple plates takes up too much time and often creates too much variation between artist proofs. Color viscosity printing was developed by Atelier 17 which was a group based in Paris in the 1950s.

When a lithograph is made, the image is drawn with a litho crayon or greasy ink on the plate. It is then covered with a mixture of gum arabic and nitric acid. The main idea behind lithography is that water and oil do not mix. The positive image attracts the oily ink and the negative repels it. As a result, when the stone is dampened with a sponge and an ink saturated roller is passed over it, the ink is deposited on the greasy ink but not on the wet stone. The ink does not smear and there is no seepage. When a paper is put on the stone and it goes through the press, the image is transferred to the paper.


 

(Source: Researchgate.net)

Shown below are some of the works recently exhibited during the India Art Fair 2020, at KNMA Noida in 2019, and others that have been auctioned at Prinseps.

 

KOLKATA FOOTPATH: WOMAN MAKING COW DUNG CAKES WITH HER BABY ALONGSIDE

Circa 1940s, Woodcut on paper, 7 X 5 in.

 

SANTHAL DANCERS

Circa 1940s, Woodcut on paper, 14 X 12 in. 

 
 

BIRTH OF A WHITE ROSE (Edition - Artist proof I)

1961, Combined process etching on paper, 19.75 x 17.25 in. 
 

UNTITLED (Abstract)

1962, Variation Print, 10.5 x 14 in

UNTITLED (Woman)

1963, Intaglio, 13.5 x 20 in

 

WOMAN WITH A BOWL

Coloured Etching on paper, 1965

 

FIGURE WITH A PET

Coloured Etching on paper, 1965

 

UNTITLED

1966

 

UNTITLED

1966

 

IN THE POD

1967, Intaglio on Paper, 9.75 x 11.5 in.

 

THE FLYING FIGURE

1967, Coloured deep etching on paper, 9.7 x 11.75 in.

 

GERMINATION (Edition - Artist proof 2/12)

1967, Coloured intaglio on paper, 14 x 10 in.

 

GERMINATION (Edition - Artist proof 6/12)

1968, Coloured deep etching on paper, 9.75 x 7.75 in.

 

GERMINATION (Edition - Trial proof 3)

1968, Coloured deep etching on paper, 11 x 7.5 in. 
 
 

UNTITLED

1967, Etching, 10 x 13 in.

 

GERMINATION (Edition - Trial proof 3)

1968, Coloured deep etching on paper, 11 x 7.5 in.

 

GERMINATION (Edition - Artist proof 6/12)

1968, Coloured deep etching on paper, 9.75 x 7.75 in.

 

GERMINATION (Edition - Artist proof 2/12)

1967, Coloured intaglio on paper, 14 x 10 in.
  
  

The Prophet

Circa 1970, Viscosity etching on handmade paper, 11 x 15 in.

 

UNTITLED

Circa 1970, Etching on handmade paper, 11 x 15 in.

  

UNTITLED

Circa 1970 , Etchings on handmade paper

UNTITLED

Circa 1970 , Etchings on handmade paper
  

NUDE SITTING (Edition - Trial proof)

1972, Lithograph on paper, 13 x 16.75 in.

 

NUDE SITTING (Edition - 10/10)

1972, Lithograph on paper, 13 x 16.75 in.

 

NUDE (Edition - 7/10)

1973, Lithograph on paper, 13 x 16.75 in.

 
 

WOUNDS 303 (Edition - Artist proof)

1973, Woodcut on Nepalese paper, 26 x 14 in.

 

WOUNDS 303 / PAVEMENT (Edition - Artist proof)

1973, Woodcut on Nepalese paper, 20 x 26 in.
 
 

BAUL SINGER

1976, Engraving and aquatint on paper, 5.75 x 4.5 in.

 

UNTITLED

1978, Lithograph, 11.5 x 17 in.

WOUNDS

1983, Pulp Print, 15.5 x 17.5 in.

The Ninth Symphony

Combined process etching on paper

 

References

Somnath Hore: Life and Art held at Project 88, Mumbai, June/July'07 Exhibited at the Solo 

Exhibition Catalogue accompanying the Solo Print Exhibition titled "Wounds - Somnath Hore held at the Bengal Gallery of Fine Arts Dhaka

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