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August 12, 2015

Remembering A Master

Text by Huzan Tata

From Kalighat-style artworks to portraits and sketches, 71 creations by celebrated painter Jamini Roy are on view at his first solo European museum exhibition

Bengalis aren’t just about their mishti doi and sandesh — art and culture form a large part of their lives as well. Among the most reputed artists from Bengal is the late Jamini Roy, whose works are currently on display in Switzerland at a show titled Jamini Roy. From Tradition to Modernity. The Kumar Collection.

The legendary Roy, a student of renowned artist Abanindranath Tagore, was known for his colourful works modelled on Kalighat paintings, and also for the revival of Indian folk art. One can view 71 creations of the artist — all from the private collection of Dr Nirmalya Kumar, a member of the Group Executive Council of Tata Sons and professor at the London Business School — at the showing in Lugano. Says Kumar about his collection, “It has taken more than 15 years to build this labour of love… Realising I had something special, I focussed on completing the collection by adding better and more unique artworks…Collecting Roy is like collecting many artists, because he evolves from derivative Western-inspired works to Kalighat-inspired modernism, the Pink Period, the Christian phase, and so on. My attraction deepened with increasing knowledge of the artist and the history of Indian modern art. The connection moved from the visual appeal to the more intellectual and emotional levels.”

Roy’s instantly identifiable figures — with hieratic faces that are reminiscent of 14th-century Italian Virgin Marys — emphasise the universality of art with no borders. ‘While Henri Matisse gradually reached the purity of form, stripping away all superfluous elements, Jamini Roy already had all that heritage of imagery and form which led back to pure essence,’ says art curator Caterina Corni about the artist, who passed away in 1972 — but lives on through his creations.

Jamini Roy. From Tradition to Modernity. The Kumar Collection. is on display at the Museo delle Culture, Switzerland until August 23, 2015.

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