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 Jamini Roy  (1887 - 1972)

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Lived/Active: India      Known for: Indian folk art painting

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Jamini Roy was born in 1887 into a middle-class family of land-owners at a small village called Chhandar in the District of Bankura in Bengal .

When he was sixteen he was sent to study at the Government School of Art in Calcutta. He was taught to paint in the prevailing academic tradition drawing Classical nudes and painting in oils and in 1908 he received his Diploma in Fine Art.

However, he soon realised that he needed to draw inspiration, not from Western traditions, but from his own culture, and so he looked to the living folk and tribal art for inspiration. He was most influenced by the Kalighat Pat, with its bold sweeping brush-strokes. He moved away from his earlier impressionist landscapes and portraits and between 1921 and 1924 began his first period of experimentation with the Santhal dance as his starting point.

His new style was both a reaction against the Bengal School and the Western tradition. His underlying quest was threefold 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. He was awarded the Padma Bhusan in 1955. 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 Calcutta. Initially he experimented with Kalighat paintings but found that it has ceased to be strictly "patua" and went to learn from village patuas. Consequently his techniques as well as subject matter was influenced by traditional art of Bengal. He preferred himself to be called a patua. Jamini Roy died in 1972 .

In 1934, he received a Viceroy's gold medal in an all India exhibition for one of his work. In 1954 he was awarded the Padma Bhushan by the Government of India.

In 1929 while inaugurating Roy's exhibition sponsored by Mukul Dey at Calcutta, the then Statesman Editor Sir Alfred Watson said: "....Those who study the various pictures will be able to trace the development of the mind of an artist constantly seeking his own mode of expression. His earlier work done under purely Western influence and consisting largely of small copies of larger works must be regarded as the exercises of one learning to use the tools of his craft competently and never quite at ease with his models. From this phase we see him gradually breaking away to a style of his own, moulded by many influences, but ultimately resulting in a treatment of mass and line which is almost Egyptian in its outlook. There is a primitive force, perhaps yet not quite sure of itself, but consciously striving to break into individual expression.

You must judge for yourselves how far Mr. Roy has been able to achieve the ends at which he is obviously aiming. His work will repay study. I see in it as I see in much of the painting in India today a real endeavour to recover a national art that shall be free from the sophisticated tradition of other countries, which have had a continuous art history. The work of those who are endeavouring to revive Indian art is commonly not appreciated in its true significance. It is sometimes assumed that revival means no more than a return to the methods and traditions of the past. That would be to create a school of copyists without visions and ideals of their own. From the point of view of art it would be a wholly worthless endeavour — a thing of no significance. Art to deserve the name must be living and expanding. Upon the minds of its exponents must be beating the illumination of all the ages. Whatever direction Indian art may take in the future it cannot, if it is to have value, go wholly back to the past any more than it can become merely imitative of the Western outlook. It must have a vision of its own. All Indian art today is in the stage of experiment. Its exponents are seeking some firm ground on which they can stand, and they are seeking it by numerous paths. It is that fact which makes the present period so intensely interesting to the student of art. Failures there must be, but any day may emerge the man who is to set Indian art on the road of high accomplishment.

....Art in any form cannot progress without encouragement. The artist must live and he must live by the sale of his work. In India as elsewhere the days when the churches and the princes were the patrons of art have passed. Encouragement today must come from a wider circle. I would say to those who have money to spare buy Indian art with courage. You may obtain some things of little worth; you may, on the other hand, acquire cheaply something that is destined to have great value. What does it matter whether you make mistakes or not. By encouraging those who are striving to give in line and colour a fresh expression to Indian thought you are helping forward a movement that we all hope is destined to add a fresh lustre to the country."

"Jamini Roy", Wikipedia:

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Born in 1887 into a middle-class family of land-owners at a small village called Chhandar in the District of Bankura in Bengal, Jamini Roy studied at the Government School of Art in Calcutta.  He learned painting in the Western tradition and found first acclaim as a portrait painter in the European style.  Going forward, he cultivated a personal painting style inspired largely by traditional Indian folk and village arts, particularly those of his native Bengal.

His work captures the essence of simplicity in the life of the Indian people, making it more accessible to a wider section of the population and giving Indian Art its own identity.  Roy spent most of his life living and working in Calcutta and was awarded the Padma Bhusan in 1955 by the Government of India.  His work has been exhibited in international exhibitions and is held in public and private collections including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England.

Jamini Roy died in Calcutta in 1972. 


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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Jamini Roy began his career as a young artist painting portraits and impressionistic style landscapes, but by his late 30s began experimenting with Kalighat and Bengali Folk painting. Drawing upon those influences, he eventually forged the style of modern painting for which he is best known, a successful reinterpretation of traditional South Asian iconography by way of crisp, clean, modernist lines. He went on to become one of the most celebrated modernists in the history of Indian painting. Born in West Bengal in 1887, he studied at the Government School of Art in Kolkata from 1906 to 1914. His paintings were first exhibited at the art school in Kolkata in 1929, and the artist also had notable solo exhibitions in London in 1946 and in New York in 1953. In 1955 he was honored with the Padma Bhushan, the Indian government’s third highest civilian award, and is a designated National Treasure of India along with Amrita Sher-Gil and Rabindranath Tagore. He died in Kolkata in 1972 at the age of 85, a celebrated and revolutionary artist.
Christie's, Mumbai

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