Variegated vignettes from Bengal School

Variegated vignettes from Bengal School

In the late 19th century, West Bengal emerged as the most important cultural centre where pioneering experiments with modern art were played out with strong convictions and determinations as the influential art movement, “The Bengal School of Art” originated in the city. During this period, Kolkata in particular and later Shantiniketan in the early 20th century played a crucial role in shaping and spearheading the foundational movements of modern Indian art. Hence Bengal became the pivotal point of art activity, and names like Rabinbdranath Tagore, Abanindranath Tagore, Nandlal Bose and Mukul Dey rose to prominence.

But there were many not-so-popular artists whose works continued to stir imagination and urged to look beyond obvious and pose questions challenging one’s intellect. Works of such modern and contemporary artists were displayed in the capital in an exhibition titled ‘Bengal Panorama: The legacy and the continuity’, presented by Janus Art Gallery, that celebrated the works of these artists on a single platform.

“Works of many Bengali artists was equally good but they never became that famous. The idea of the exhibition was to cover a large span of Bengal Art movement, from the early modern to the contemporary,” curator Soma Bhowmik tells Metrolife.

Not following any chronological order, the show focused on individualistic styles and innovations of every artist. The thematic range covered various subjects like simple representation of observed facts, stylised imaging of daily life and surrounding. Works like Biswapati Maity’s Jhalmuri man reflected the ethos of a city that loves this evening snack, Lalu Prasad Shaw painted a typical Bengali man and Dolly Dutta’s canvas pictured a happy Bengali family together.

There were also sculptures by Tarun Maity who recalled the past through his works. He used pigeons as a metaphor to recollect our historical past. “Pigeons used to carry letters earlier. They were the messengers, and hence I thought of presenting them in this way,” says Maity.

Apart from this, one of the works that took centre stage at the exhibition was a work by Suvajit Samanta, inspired by the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. The white-coloured fibreglass in the shape of spectacle frame had figurines of men and women – from diverse background, with a broom in hand, cleaning the surface conveyed the message clearly: “India has to collectively and consciously commit towards this campaign.”

“The younger artists have a stylistic variety that is bold and promising. Both in terms of handling of the various mediums and a huge range of thematic concerns,” says Bhowmik.

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