Nandalal  Bose


About   Nandalal  Bose’s paintings Dr  S  Radhakrishnan (noted philosopher and a former President of India) had observed, “ when we  come across   a  great genius  who  has abiding  faith  in     the spirit of this    ancient land, who has that rarest  of qualities  unhampered  unclouded visions we feel we have come  into  our own world  of art.Nandalal Bose  takes his   material  from the  classical myths and legends of  India and gives new forms  to ancient ideals.’ Nandalal Bose   lived and worked during the period of India’s  freedom   movement. His works embodied the cultural Renaissance which traversed the land during that time.

Beginning his career as disciple of Abanindranath (nephew of the Nobel laureate)at the Tagore family’s ancestral home in Jorasanko,Kolkata, Bose  travelled a  long  way in the sphere  of Art, gradually imbibing the diverse  influences of the land as  well as experience acquired  from voyages abroad. And finally it was his slogging out from the rigid environs of Kolkata with its band of strait jacketed   artists to the   open air and blue skies and idyllic surroundings of Santiniketan remained singularly significant for him. All these influences merged and blended into a harmonious whole and further enriched an art that was indigenous  in body  and spirit. Bose  had a short  stint  in  ‘kalighat pat’ a unique style  upheld by painters  who lived and operated in the vicinity of the iconic Kalighat  temple in  Kolkata, The predominant theme was deities of the Hindu pantheon as well as figures from legends and myths. The gifted artist that he was, Bose mastered this art form in no time and assimilated into his personal style.

His genius finally blossomed when   Mahatma Gandhi asked Bose to undertake the decoration of the gateways and pandals of the Haripura session of the Indian National Ccongress in 1938. The new task opened up new vistas before Nandalal—providing him the platform to experiment with earth colour painting in folk style.  The village structures and huts became his models; he made gates and arches entirely out of locally available materials. The painted panels were distributed and arranged with meticulous care—creating a rural ambience which merged with the village landscape and yet stood out as something unique displaying the lofty grandeur and elegance and village simplicity.

Nandalal Bose, a faithful adherent of the Bengal School of Art, was deeply attracted to mythology which prolifically appeared in his paintings viz Karna worshipping the Sun, Gandhari, Bhishma’s vow, Savitri and Yama, Sati, Drona  imparting lessons in archery, Uma’s penance, Shiva consuming poison, to name a few.

As a young artist, Nandalal Bose was deeply influenced by the murals of the Ajanta Caves. The discerning viewers may easily notice how they appear and reappear in his masterpieces. He also painted insects, birds, animals, plants, flowers, mountains, mist, cloud, rains, landscapes and  above all   the vibrant life force which strongly asserts itself in myriad ways.

Bose’s mega portfolio comprises nearly ten thousand works: paintings, watercolors, drawings and graphics, thus representing the acme of his experiments with styles and media. These uphold his belief in the dignity and simplicity of life. Interestingly, to perpetuate the 1930 occasion of Mahatma Gandhi‘s arrest for defying the Salt Tax, Bose created a black-on-white linocut print of Gandhi walking with a staff, which later became the icon for the non-violence movement. Much later, in the post-independence era he was asked by Jawaharlal Nehru to conceptualize the emblems for prestigious (Government of India’s) civilian awards, e.g  Bharat Ratna, Padma Shri  and more.  In tandem with one of his disciples Rammanohar, Bose also undertook the mammoth task of embellishing the original manuscript of the Constitution of India. It would be appropriate to wind up, with the great  artist’s views on Art, ‘The fine arts rescue us from the drabness of everyday life by lifting us into the realms of joy”.