Jamini Roy : Artworks from the collection of National Gallery of Modern Art

  • Jamini Roy : Artworks from the collection of National Gallery of Modern Art Conceptualized by : Prof. Rajeev Lochan, Director, NGMA, New Delhi and Curatorial Team at NGMA


    Jamini Roy was one of the earliest and most significant modernists of twentieth century Indian art. From 1920 onwards his search for the essence of form led him to experiment with dramatically different visual style. His career spanning over nearly six decades had many significant turning points and his works collectively speak of the nature of his modernism and the prominent role he played in breaking away from the art practices of his time. Trained in the British academic style of painting in the early decades of the twentieth century, Jamini Roy became well-known as a skilful portraitist. He received regular commissions after he graduated from the Government Art School in what is now Kolkata, in 1916. The first three decades of the twentieth century saw a sea-change in cultural expressions in Bengal. The growing surge of the nationalist movement was prompting all kinds of experiments in literature and the visual arts. The Bengal School, founded by Abanindranath Tagore and Kala Bhavana in Santiniketan under Nandalal Bose rejected European naturalism and the use of oil as a medium and were exploring new ways of representation. Jamini Roy, too, consciously rejected the style he had mastered during his academic training and from the early 1920s searched for forms that stirred the innermost recesses of his being. He sought inspiration from sources as diverse as East Asian calligraphy, terracotta temple friezes, objects from folk arts and crafts traditions and the like. What was increasingly apparent from 1920 onwards was that Roy brought a joy and lan to the representation of village scenes and people, reflecting the innocence and romanticism of his childhood upbringing in a rural environment. It was perhaps an instinctive step forward for him, given that he was born in Beliatore village in Bankura district, West Bengal. After turning away from the academic realist style, Jamini Roy did a suite of paintings featuring Santal women. These sensuously painted women were engaged in their daily chores in their village settings. Using firm angular lines, he painted romanticised images of figures that hinted at increasing stylisation. These paintings were stepping stones to even more dramatic changes in his visual language. From the mid-1920s, his images were executed with sweeping, calligraphic lines showing the artist's strong control over the brush. Colour was leached out of the paintings resulting in series of monochromatic pictures that hinted at inspiration from both East Asian painting styles and Kalighat pats. The images were drawn from everyday life-mother and child figures, women, bauls and so on. By the end of 1920s, Jamini Roy turned for inspiration towards the folk arts and craft traditions of his own district. He painted ordinary rural people, scenes from Krishna-leela, scenes from the epics, icons from the folk cults of the region, witty representations of animals. Perhaps, one of the boldest experiments in figuration and narrativisation was the series from the life of Jesus Christ and the episodes from Christian mythology.It is interesting that till the 1930s, along with his folk-style paintings, Jamini Roy also continued to paint portraits with impressionist and even pointillist brushstrokes. The medium in the later years was however tempera. Jamini Roy has also made wonderful copies of European masters as tools for honing his visual language. His engagement with modernity lay in his search for the essence of form, his use of bold, vibrant, dazzling colours that negated the naturalistic colour palette. He found what he wanted in the folk art idioms and yet Jamini Roy's methods were not that of the folk artist.He made meticulous and detailed drawings of his images. However, he was rooted in the village culture that shaped his early years and he shared with the villagers an uncomplicated world-view and a belief in the certainties of tradition.

  • Santhal Dance

  • Santhal Girl

  • Cat and Crab

  • Gopini

  • Rats