Always keen to experiment, Jamini Roy (1887 – 1972) totally did away with the traditional canvas later on and opted to create his own unique surfaces out of wood coated with lime, woven mats, and cloth, using natural earth and vegetable colors. In the process, he switched to indigenous materials, discarding canvas and an impressionist style in oil painting.
Hailing from a modest village in the state of Bengal, his affinity to nature and rustiness of life there amply reflected in his subject matter and technique. He did a Diploma from Kolkata’s Fine Arts, Government School of Arts and Craft (1903-08). While studying there, he developed propensity for drawing classical nudes in keeping with the then prevalent academic traditions.
To begin with, his dabbling in the Post-Impressionist genre of landscapes and portraits could be attributed to his training in a British academic system. Gradually the young practitioner started experimenting with the art rooted to his own culture, seeking inspiration from the surrounding life, living folk as well as tribal art forms. The artistic transformation took a definite direction around 1921-24, after peasant upsurges across the country, prompting him to explore contemporary concerns.
The sensitive and socially conscious artist blended the innate artistic sensibilities with his appropriation of folk idiom that manifested in various ways. While painting ordinary village folks, he reinvented images from the patua’s ravishing repertoire. A series of works he did a decade before the World War II testified this knack of infusing the native folk painting style with those of his own.
Wonderful works of art by this modern artist of India, among the most celebrated ones of his generation, are soaked in a rural romance, celebrating the country’s humble grassroots. The inimitable themes and style cultivated by him still draw the fancy of collectors around the world as evident at some of the recent sales of South Asian modern & contemporary art.
What made his work unique was the fact that he opted to break away from the then academic traditions, to set his own stylistic and thematic agenda even while staying true to the core values and life around that shaped him as a person and as an artist. National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) is currently hosting the works of this eminent artist, The show, entitled 'Jamini Roy: Journey To The Roots', has been curated by Ella Datta.