Bose, Nandalal

Nandalal Bose

Bose, Nandalal (1882-1966) is considered to be one of the pioneers of modern Indian art. Though his paternal home was in Hoogly, Bengal, he was born on 3 December 1882 (some records show 3 February 1883) in Munger-Khadagpur in Bihar where his parents lived. He studied in various schools in Dwarbhanga and Kolkata and passed Entrance in 1903.

Nandalal was keen in painting and sculpture from his childhood. His parents understood it and got him admitted into an art school in Kolkata where he became an ardent disciple of Abanindranath Tagore, the leader of the revivalist movement in Indian art. The movement, which later became known as the Bengal School, was related to the nationalistic fervour of the time and soon Nandalal became Abanindranath’s most favourite follower. Nandalal earned some name during his apprenticeship and some of his paintings like Jagai-Madhai and Sati became popular throughout India.

After passing out from the art school Nandalal joined The Indian Society of Oriental Art under the guidance of Abanindranath Tagore in Jodashanko where he worked for three years. He won an award of Rs. 500 for his painting Xhiva-Sati in 1908 and with that money decided to travel to the historic sites of India and see for himself the artistic achievements of the great Indian civilisation. This experience of India's rich heritage in arts cast an influence on Nandalal's artistic concepts which persisted throughout his career.

The influences of the Indian nationalistic movement under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, the spirituality of Bibekananda and sister Nivedita, the artistic heritage of ancient India and the teachings of Abanindranath stayed with Nandalal for a good period and his early paintings of religious and mythological themes were greatly inspired by Ajanta and other traditional murals. In fact he led a team of artists to copy the murals in Ajanta organised by the British artist and copyist Lady Herringham in 1909.

In 1914 Nandalal first visited Kalabhavan in Xhantiniketan established by the great poet and thinker rabindranath tagore and came into touch with him. After a brief period in Bichitra established by Rabindranath in jodashanko in 1916, he started to live in Shantiniketan from 1920 and in 1922 took charge of Kalabhavan. This was a big transformation in Nandalal's life. Rabindranath started a university, Visvabharati, in Shantiniketan, Bolepur with the aim of establishing an educational institution reflecting his own concepts and ideas. Rabindranath was not a vehement nationalist and wanted a more liberal interaction between the orient and the occident. In art he desired a blend of the two rather than a narrow revival of the local traditions. With his encouragements Nandalal begun to depict contemporary themes from his surroundings and inspired his students to study and reflect the everyday life around them. He also became interested in mural paintings since some of the finest examples of India's greatest artistic achievements were done in this technique. Nandalal lead a revival of mural painting in modern India and himself executed some of the best examples in several places. He was a most inspiring teacher and became famous as universal Mastermoxhai in Indian contemporary art world. Some of Nandalal's students became nationally reputed artists, prominent among them were Benodebehari Mukherjee and Ramkinker Baij.

As a painter and muralist Nandalal Bose ranks among the finest in modern India. His works can be treated as examples of the transition from pure tradition to an art of the changing face of modern India. His linear and decorative style was marked by his own individual characteristics. Some of his more known paintings include Savitri and Jama, Gandhari, Shiddharta with the wounded goose, Shiva drinking halahal, Meerabai, Birth of Xhri Chaitanya etc. His paintings and drawings in Shantiniketan evolved into a distinctive character as the life around him in Shantiniketan gradually became themes of his works. Nandalal pioneered the revival of mural painting in India and two of his best works can be seen in Kirti Mandir in Baroda and in the Chinabhavan in Shantiniketan. He has also illustrated several books by Rabindranath Tagore and others. To mark the 1930 occasion of Gandhi's arrest for protesting the British tax on salt, he created a linocut print of Gandhi walking with a staff. It became the iconic image for the non-violent movement. In 1937 Nandalal decorated the Mandapa of the Haripura council of the Indian National Congress with 83 pieces of paintings which were a fusion of the Bangali folk painting and his own graceful style. They have now become famous as The Haripura Posters.

Nandalal has decorated the first edition of India's constitution and was responsible for the design of the Indian govt. awards like Bharatratna, Padmabhushan, Padmaxhri etc. He was awarded D. Lit. by the Kaxhi University in 1950 and in 1956 was elected Fellow of the Lalitkala Akademi, New Delhi. He retired from Kalabhavan in 1951 and was honoured with the post of Professor Emiretus. The Vishvavarati conferred upon him the title Dexhikottom in 1952 and he was awarded Padmavibhushan in 1954.

Nandalal Bose died on April 16, 1966 at the age of 83. [Abul Mansur]