Haldar, Asit Kumar

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Haldar, Asit Kumar (1890-1964) an eminent artist born in Calcutta. He was blessed by his father and grandfather and got admitted in the Government School of Art, Calcutta in 1904 at the age of 14. As a sculptor Haldar received his education from two famous artists of Bengal, Jadu Pal and Bakkeswar Pal of Krishnanagar in 1905 and later received training from Leonard Jennings.

Asit Kumar Haldar was instrumental in helping rabindranath tagore in establishing Kala Bhavan (Arts Building) in santiniketan. He was the principal of Kala Bhavan between the 1911 and 1923 and helped Tagore in promoting cultural activities. He introduced ritualistic alpana designs as a decorative device in social and ceremonial occasions at Santiniketan. During this period he disseminated his own ideas about art and inspired several students like Mukul Chnadra Dey, Ramendra Nath Chakravarti, Direndra Krishna Dev Barman, Binod Bihari Mukherjee and others. Subsequently, in 1924, he served as the principal of the Maharaja's School of Art and Crafts in Jaipur.

The art movement of abanindranath tagore succeeded to a great extent because of the assistance rendered by Asit Kumar Haldar, nandalal bose and Surendra Nath Ganguli. Haldar, however, distinguished himself from the rest, in his styles and themes, which was indeed unique in comparison to his other colleagues. Between the years 1909 and 1921 he made copies of the famous frescoes at Ajanta, Bagh and Jogimara caves, retaining his own style unaffected.

During his tour abroad in 1923 Haldar realised that the European method of rendering objects realistically suffered from considerable limitation. In his paintings the physical attributes of his objects were treated in accordance to the subject matter. Haldar's Yashoda and Krsna was not merely a religious painting. It is a representation of the infinity as represented by Krsna and its interaction with the finite world as represented by Yashoda. Haldar also made thirty-two paintings on the Buddha's life and thirty paintings on episodes from Indian history, conveying values and ideas and not mere events. Among Haldar's masterpieces mention may be made of Krsna and Yashoda, Awakening of Mother India, Rai-Raja, Lotus, Vina, Kunala and Ashoka, Dan-Lila, Raslila, The Flame of Music, Pronam, The Precious Gift, The Captive Prince, The Caress, The Negro Princess, etc.

As a tribute to his extraordinary artistic abilities the British government appointed Haldar the principal of the Government School of Art and Crafts at Lucknow, the first Indian to be appointed as the principal of a Government Art School. He was also the first Indian to be elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Art, London (1934). A 'Haldar Hall' containing a large collection of his paintings was opened at the Allahabad Museum in 1938. Asit Kumar Haldar died in 1964. [Sima Roy Chowdhury]