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 Benode Behari Mukherjee  (1904 - 1980)

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Lived/Active: India      Known for: painting

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Ad Code: 4
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
Nepal (set of 2 paintings)
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Biography from Saffronart:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Binode Behari Mukherjee (b.1904-d.1980)

He joined the Vishwa Bharti University and Kala Bhavan at Santiniketan, in 1919. He had Nandalal Bose and poet-Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore for gurus, and he spent his most creative phase at the institute.  He joined his alma mater as an art teacher in 1925.  Mukherjee ultimately left Santiniketan in 1949 and moved to Delhi.   In between, Mukherjee worked as a curator for the Nepal government Museum, as an adviser to the Educational Department in Nepal, besides training artists in Mussourie and Patna.

Mukherjee was one among the leading art figures of pre-Independent India.  He played a crucial role in the evolution of visual art.  He broke away from the `Bengal Revivalist School`, and established a more modern school of art. His importance as an artist lay in his ability to break away from the turn of the century Bengal Revivalist mould and create a dynamic modern vocabulary, which paved the way for the next generation of artists in the 1940s.  Mukherjee led art beyond the dominance of literary subjects and mythology, to a form that gave importance to pictorial elements such as color, line and texture.  This, at a time when modern art was considered `taboo`, and Indian tradition was thought to be `holy` and unchanging.

Mukherjee`s output as an artist spans half a century and has been varied and ever changing.   As an artist, he has experimented with many mediums, ranging from murals to collage, from woodcuts to calligraphy, from watercolors, oil paint, ink and crayons to graphics.  Despite having weak eyesight, Mukherjee traveled widely and his real subjects were his experiences.  He once wrote, "The person who is not roused by a pulsating image, a small touch or sound, can make no sense of the word `beauty`.  A person who neither knows, nor thinks beyond his worldly needs has no use for beauty."  Thus, whether he painted the sparse scrubland around Santiniketan, sunflowers or lilies or even the Himalayan landscape, his paintings were based not merely on observations but on timeless patterns, on the intrinsic feel and texture of things.  Initially, Mukherjee drew people he saw and met around him.  But as his vision deteriorated, he moved towards the elemental, the bare bones of structures and forms.  His stylistic development shows his preference for simplicity.  A serious student of Indian mural tradition, his skill and competence found expression on the walls of the Hindi and Chinese Bhavans (wings) on the premises of the Tagore University Campus.   He later moved on to wax sculptures.  The ceilings of the Kalabhavan student hostel, which he did in egg tempera, marked the climax of his search for graphics.  Mukherjee was a major inspiration for filmmaker Satyajit Ray. He was Ray`s art teacher.  The filmmaker made a documentary `The Inner Eye`, where he portrayed the triumphant spirit of his art teacher.  Mukherjee exhibited his works in Mumbai, Kolkata, New Delhi, Ahemdabad, Mussorie and Tokyo. 

His works are in the collection of the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi, Rabindra Bharti, Kolkata and other private and public collections.  Awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 1974, the artist was also honored by Vishwa Bharti with its highest title `Dekhikottam`.

Binode Behari Mukherjee turned completely blind in 1957.  He died in Delhi in November 1980.

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