Man of folk art, Jamini Roy

Born on 11 April 1887 in a small village in Beliatore, West Bengal, Jamini Roy joined the Government School of Art, Kolkata in 1903. He began his career by painting the genre of landscapes and portraits. By 1925, Roy had begun experimenting along the lines of popular paintings that were sold outside the Kalighat temple in Kolkata. By 1930s, Roy made a completely switched to native materials to paint on woven mats, cloth and wood artifacts. The inspiration for painting on woven mats was the textures he found in Byzantine era art. Tribal people who live in the rural districts of Bengal were an important subject for Roy. He mixed the minimal brush strokes of the Kalighat style with elements of tribal art from Bengal.

The mother and child, Radha, and animals were painted in simple two-dimensional forms, with flat colors and an emphasis on the lines was given. The main subjects were often enclosed within decorative borders with motifs in the background.

His underlying quest was to capture the essence of simplicity embodied in the life of the folk people, to make art accessible to a wider section of people, and to give Indian art its own identity. Jamini Roy’s paintings were put on exhibition for the first time in the British India Street of Kolkata in 1938. During the 1940s, his popularity touched new highs, with the Bengali middle class and the European community becoming his main clientele. In 1946, his work was exhibited in London and in 1953, in the New York City. He was awarded the Padma Bhusan in 1954.

His work has been exhibited extensively in international exhibitions and can be found in many private and public collections such as the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. He spent most of his life living and working in Kolkata. Initially he experimented with Kalighat paintings but found that it has ceased to be strictly a “patua” and went to learn from village patuas. Consequently, his techniques as well as subject matter was influenced by traditional art of Bengal.

Jamini Roy died on 24 April 1972 in Kolkata, where he had lived all his life.

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