Nandalal Bose had the distinction of being mentored by both Havell and Abanindranath Tagore. His oeuvre speaks volumes about his artistic capabilities but it is also underlined by a sense of responsibility towards shaping the mind of a country. His nationalistic impulses found beautiful realization in his works.
Nandalal Bose was born in, what is now Bihar (India), in December 1882. After completing his primary education in Bihar he was sent to Calcutta to continue his education. The fact that he was not cut out for conventional academia was pretty evident from his unsuccessful brush with higher education. His stint with academics convinced him that there is only one thing in life for him, Art.
The works of Abanindranath Tagore fascinated the young painter in Nandala Bose and he was firmly resolved to be the student of the creator of ‘Buddha’, 'Sujata' and 'Bajra-Mukut'. He hesitantly approached Abanindranath Tagore with some of his paintings. Tagore was not only impressed but was intrigued to see such a mature approach towards Art in someone so young. The lines of his paintings exuded confidence and the themes were both bold and experimental. He quickly passed on the paintings to his good friend Havell, who wholeheartedly approved too.
Thus began the symbiotic relationship between a teacher and a student or more importantly, two painters.
The synthesis of schools in Nandalal Bose Paintings
Nanadalal Bose’s creativity spoke many languages. It was a blend of India’s artistic traditions and several contemporary styles. The Sino Japanese influence (his interaction with Japanese painters in Calcutta proved to be a fruitful experience) gave complexity to his otherwise simplistic soulful expressions.
One can hardly categorize his works under any particular school. While his project on Ajanta frescos showed his inherent capacity to deal with lines and had an air of classicism. The flat spaces of Mughal Paintings and Rajasthani paintings find their way into his work in the “Kala Bhavan” leg of his career.
The Sabari Paintings had a distinct post-impressionist air, with its jagged lines and belligerent strokes. The “Chaitanya series” and 'Haripura-Posters' were an exquisite ode to the Bengali Folk tradition.
The Nationalist in Nandalal Bose
Bose belonged to a tradition of painters who were known for their patriotic beliefs. His works were conscious of the burden of building and shaping the mind of a nation. The values and tradition of a nation found voice in his canvases.
He was also one of the few prominent artists to project theirs works as a backlash against colonialism. But it will be unfair to term him an “antagonist”, for his works were more of an attempt to nourish India’s future sensibilities with an awareness of her own heritage and that of the world around her.
Nandalal Bose’s palette
Nandalal Bose paintings see the meeting of the sublime with the harsh. His sometimes-energetic strokes ensured that his works had vigor and vivacity. In a mellow mood he would carry the translucence of countryside dusk in his work. Colors seem like they have been washed into the surface and not painted, the mellow browns and yellows blend into each other in sublimely glory.
Some Nanadalal Bose favorites
Listed below are some of Nandala Bose’s best-known works
The Sacrifice of Gandhari- this painting depicts the character from the Hindu epic Mahabharata, with much sensitivity. Her decision to blindfold herself to lead a life similar to her blind husband is one of the best-known instances of sacrifice in Indian mythology.
Woman performing Sati- this beautiful luminous painting depicts one of the most barbaric customs of Hinduism, Sati, or self-immolation of Indian widows in her husband’s pyre. One of his more nationalistic paintings it’s well known for its beautiful blend of colors.
Haripura posters- this series depicting the rural Bengal and their activities of rural folks was made for an Indian National Congress session in 1938. The posters derived their style from the Kalighat pat paintings.
Nandalal Bose’s brilliance did not go unrecognized, his paintings were exhibited around the world and many awards were bestowed on him. He received the Padma Bhushan from the Indian Government in 1955. He died in 1966.