As we prepare for the exhibitions of Gobardhan Ash and Rathin Maitra, we have realised that the context and continuum of the modernist movement around the 1940s are somehow forgotten. We strive to bring them to light with the hope of more research and discussions. (Refer here) This write-up focuses on Calcutta and Bombay.
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.
A pentimento (plural pentimenti) is an alteration in a painting which is evidenced by traces of previous work. The alteration shows that the artist changed their mind during the process of making the work.
Jamini Roy, who was inspired by folk traditions created an Alpana or a floral motif that was considered to be sacred painting in Bengal because it was done on special occasions. The alpana which is usually done with hands and rice paint on the floor was done with tempera on cloth instead.
Jamini Roy’s inspiration for folk art led him to experiment with sculpture along with paintings and sketches even though he had no formal sculpture training. This artwork depicts a preparatory sketch of three sculptures similar to crude dolls from folk art.
Jamini Roy's rejection of the western academic style of painting led to him being inspired by Bengali folk paintings. Before he made the complete switch to the pat style paintings, he was depicting village life and folk. This work shows a personal reconstruction of another Indian reality that was often not seen in urban areas.
One of the most iconic figures of modern Indian art of the mid-20th century, Jamini Roy’s reputation spilled over from the art world into a larger public and popular domain, and even as his name became synonymous in modern Indian art history with a reinvented "Bengali folk" style.
In the midst of the triumph of Orientalists lead by E.B. Havell, the principal of the Government Art School in Calcutta, and Abanindranath Tagore, naturalism re-emerged in the 1920s in Calcutta partly due to Percy Brown's encouragement and because of the rise of the artists such as Hemendranath Majumdar.
In India modernism starts due to a desire to move away from the academic art being practiced and advanced by the British. Abanindranath Tagore, Jamini Roy were the earliest of the Indigenous modernists.
Jamini Roy's studio from the 40's basically consisted only of his son Amiya (nicknamed to 'potol' in the classic Bengali Daak naam tradition of coming up with the most silly nicknames that one can find) and another (of last name Chatterjee) whose job was to mix and create the tempera.