Bhanu Athaiya's life story is a testament to the power of talent, determination, and passion. Born in Kolhapur, India, in 1929, Bhanu's artistic journey was shaped by her father Annasaheb Rajopadhye, an amateur artist who introduced her to the world of art. Kolhapur, a significant artistic center in the early 20th century, was a hotbed of creativity and social upheaval, with the local king actively promoting artisans. This environment exposed Bhanu to the likes of Abalal Rahiman, Dhurandhar, and Baburao Painter, who were prominent figures in the artistic circle of Kolhapur. Of particular note, Baburao Painter was a multifaceted artist who made significant contributions to both painting and filmmaking in India.
Ram Kumar’s existence in the art world was much like a peaceful mountain, exuding a sense of serenity and enduring presence. The reticent artist wielded both the pen and brush but ultimately embraced the latter as his mightier sword of choice. Born in 1924 in Shimla, Kumar’s meditative surroundings deeply affected his sensibilities as an artist. He imbibed a sense of calm from the silent mountains and the clear blue skies that found expression in his paintings. His affinity with nature, the serene flow of slow-seeping rivers, the allure of solitary spaces, and the haunting charm of abandoned structures would all combine to establish him as the foremost significant abstract painter in the Modern Indian art world.
The Principal of the Government Art School, Mr. Percy Brown was scheduled to retire In 1928. Jamini Prakash Ganguly, the Vice-Principal was still two years away from retirement, and in fact, owed two years’ worth of leave. Mukul Dey, the artist was rumoured to be next in line for the office of Principal of the Art School. Sri T. A. Achary held the office of Head Master, while Nandalal Roy Chowdhury was Head Clerk and Superintendent of the Students’ Hostel on Corporation Street, where he was a resident too. Perhaps, one may as well have approached these very individuals to inquire as to the situation that had been brewing.
Modern art is a continuum - so the above title is not appropriate but necessitated due to recent events. The artwork pictured here is crucially important and was extracted around 2017 from Jamini Roy’s residence in Ballygunge Place East. The work used to be so significant that it would be seen at the entrance of his studio and was used in every exhibition as a welcome continuing the Bengali tradition of Alpona.
Following the opening of The Legacy of Bhanu Athaiya exhibit was an insightful discussion between stalwarts Ritu Kumar (Textile Historian and Fashion Designer) and Kiran Nadar (Founder and Chairperson KNMA). H.H. MAHARANI Radhika Raje Gaekwad of Baroda inaugurated the event and fondly spoke of her learnings while documenting and intensively researching the legacy of India's most globally renowned costume designer Bhanu Rajopadhye Athaiya.
The Hindi movies that I grew up watching in the ’70s, in theatres, and then in the ’50s and ’60s on Television, left lasting impressions. What attracted me most was the song & dance and the costumes worn by the stars. Many years later, I learned to my surprise that almost every look that was created for the actresses right from Waheeda ji, to Mumtaz ji to Zeenat ji – was by one person - Bhanu Athaiya!
Actor Tanuja narrates Bhanu Athaiya's transition from art to Indian cinema while carrying her love for art on her sleeve. Lovingly addressed by Bhanu as 'Tanu', the actor reminisces about Bhanu's eagerness to delve into the actor's role before designing her costumes.
Bhanu Rajopadhye Athaiya (b. 1929) was born in her 300-year-old sprawling ancestral house in the heart of Kolhapur. Bhanu grew up surrounded by indigenous and western political, social and cultural influences. Her ability to translate all this information into the medium of cinema and art made her the first Indian ever to win an Oscar. Bhanu Athaiya is not only recognised as the revered doyenne of Indian costume designers; but also a remarkable modernist artist.
In lieu of India's 75th year of Independence, Google Arts and Culture celebrated Bhanu Rajopadhye Athaiya as one of India's trail-blazing icons. She leaves behind a rich and wonderful legacy built on creativity, fortitude, and immense talent. One of the early members of the Bombay Progressives group and India's first Oscar-winning Costume Designer, Bhanu Rajopadhye had a historically important early career as an artist, exploring the possibilities of Indian Modernism with her contemporaries at the J.J. School of Art and the Progressive Artists' Group.
An unabating artist whose creative expression was unfazed by the trials and tribulations he faced, A.A. Raiba (b. 1922) was relentless; almost restless in his artistic pursuits till the very end saying, “Itni Umar Gayi, Kam khatam nahi Hua".  His visual narrative was derived from his love for Urdu poetry and Islamic Literature. Born in Mumbai, most of Raiba’s works exude nostalgia and are intimate observations of old Bombay and his travels all over the country. Raiba’s oeuvre is rooted in intensively researched history with influences from his lifelong practice in Calligraphy.
A ray of light enters Lajmi’s room and falls on a half-painted canvas. The artist’s room is dipped in evening hues as twilight knocks on the door. Brushes stacked in paint holders stand in awe-filled unison like silent spectators as unsuspecting Lajmi continues to paint into the night. Seated on a wooden chair propped up on two cushions, Lajmi’s creative spirit knows no rest. Lalitha Lajmi’s nocturnal artmaking which was first born out of necessity is now a habit she has woven into her creative process.
Like a blithe child colouring on the walls despite protests, nothing deterred F.N. Souza (b. 1924) from asserting his art. His art, whose first impact is to shock, elicits a childlike element of uninhibited honesty with no filter, unafraid, and almost oblivious to those offended. His unrestrained and thought-provoking body of work makes one wonder about the power of art and its hold over the human psyche. Broad and bold lines jump out of the canvas attacking with speed, deeming him an eternal rebel.
A meditative quality fills the senses as one steps into Raza's creative sanctuary in Delhi. Walls of art adorn each corridor, doorway, and room, giving one a glimpse inside the artist's mind. The leitmotif of Bindu in Raza's art looks out from all his canvases. While old photographs and a typewriter tell stories from another time. This studio is an exhibition of Raza's intimate world as an artist and a dreamer.
This particular work, titled WOUNDS-104, being a very explicit depiction of Hore’s 'Wounds' gives one an insight into the artistic process.The work’s base layer is an etching dated in Bengali as 1972. There is a faint signature to the left that reads SO(mnath), followed by an eight in Bengali. Hence this piece seems to have been worked on by the artist for over a decade- the 70s and 80s, suggesting that masterpieces are indeed not made overnight.
Somnath Hore was not one to paint the blue of the skies, the glitter of the sands, or the green of the whispering trees, but the helplessness of the trembling hand attached to an emaciated body collapsed on the floor. In Somnath’s vision, it is the spectacle of man’s suffering that steals the show.
The illustration and painting of the globe of ideal- the form of beauty appeared on the playground of five elements in tone a rhythmic posture by the display of harmonious posture. The awakened inner soul of mankind unifies the different sentiments by the marvelous tonal sublimation, the fine arts born in a rhythmic aptitude.
Sometime in the middle of December, 1949, I met Prodosh Dasgupta, Prankrishna Pal, and Rathin Maitra at the Calcutta Photo Society at 157B, Dharamtolla Street. Prodosh happened to be a previous acquaintance. The other two gentlemen, however, I met for the first time. “Why, we’ve been looking for you. There’s something we would like to discuss,” they said.
Art Rebel Centre, founded in 1933, was formed and led by Gobardhan Ash, Abani Sen, Annada Dey, and Bhola Chatterjee. Subsequently, some of those invited to submit their work in exhibitions accepted membership. These include Lalit Chandra, Haridas Ganguly, Samar Dey, Amar Dasgupta, Sachin Das, Kalikinkar Ghoshdastidar, Khagen Roy, and Suren Dey, among others. Manoj Bose and Rabi Bose became members too, despite not providing paintings for exhibitions. The following is a brief history of how Art Rebel Centre came to be.
[The present article by the veteran artist Gobardhan Ash, stands testament to two of the pioneering ventures, in recent years, at creating a cumulative creative space for young artists of this country ━ both of which he had been a part of. Mr. Ash was subsequently involved with the Calcutta Group as well.]