Grand Old Man of Indian Art - B.C.Sanyal
The Grand Old Man of Indian Art - BC Sanyal turns 101
"My motto has been to eat, drink, and be merry. But I think the secret of my long innings is that I have done everything in moderation'
Age is a mental attitude. If you have this kind of thinking then you'll be healthy all the time."
A year ago, Bhabesh Chandra Sanyal turned a very hale and hearty centurion. Though Sanyal is 101 now, he is still extremely
agile and his eyes sparkle with the same alert and active smile that gleamed in them more than fifty years ago, when he started off
on what was to become a most memorable career as an artist, a teacher and an innovator.
B C Sanyal was born on 22 April 1901, in Dhubri, Assam, and spent six years at the
Serampore College of Art in Kolkata, where he whet his appetite for painting as well as sculpting. Later, he got a Diploma from the
Government College of Art and Crafts in Kolkata and worked as a teacher and vice-principal at the Mayo College of Art in Lahore
after his graduation. Sanyal also set up the renowned Lahore School of Art after he was forced to quit Mayo by the British who
suspected him of secessionist activities.
In 1947, partition forced Sanyal to cross the border and live as a refugee in New Delhi,
amidst a group of artists. He temporarily worked with the All India Fine Arts and Crafts Society, before moving on to establish
the Delhi Shilpi Chakra, a forum for the arts. After heading the fine arts department at Delhi Polytechnic for a while as well,
Sanyal joined the Lalit Kala Akademi (LKA), serving as its secretary and, subsequently, vice-chairman. Sanyal was one the people
instrumental in organizing the triennales that are now a regular LKA feature.
In 1987, the President of India awarded Sanyal with the Padma Bhushan. This artist much ahead
of his times has also been honoured with Visva Bharati's Gagan Abani Puraskar, honorary citizenship of Baltimore, the Assam
Government's Sankar Dev Award, and Honorary Fellowship of the Russian Centre for Science and Culture.
The centenarian's formidable reputation rests on his artistic skills as well as his path breaking work
that widened the scope and reach of Indian modern art for the first time. The themes of Sanyal's paintings mirror a concern for the
struggles of human beings, particularly of the economically underprivileged class. His style sometimes reminds one of the Bengal
School painters. Fellow artist Manu Parekh once said of him, "Sanyal has a strong affection towards the Bengal School of art.
Though his simple imageries are not critically considered now, such simple things also do have something to tell. His art is
like his personality, simple, serene and clear."
Even at the age of 101, Sanyal has not shied away from innovation and the
enthusiastic creativity that always marked his art. He recently worked with Atelier 2221, a print shop in the capital, to produce lithographs, a medium he hadn't dabbled in before.
Sanyal's pioneering and visionary spirit hasn't faded in the least either. His dreams of an artist's resort in Andretta
village, Himachal Pradesh are just beginning to blossom. And to collect funds for this project, Sanyal is continuing to
exhibit and sell his works. He imagines the place as a calm and quiet getaway providing him with a place to live and work,
and other artists with unlimited inspiration.
Many organizations have felicitated BC Sanyal on his achievements over a life
that's has spanned more than a hundred years including the Russian Centre for Science and Culture, the Lalit Kala Akademi, the
Indian Council for Cultural Relations and the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts. The Government of India even issued a special stamp in honour of Sanyal's
Nothing has been able obstruct Sanyal in his journey so far, and we are sure
that even now, at 101, nothing will be able to break the amazing zest for life and spirit of adventure that has kept him young
at heart. The Andretta resort will only be another milestone that we will use to measure this man's great achievements that
never seem to ebb. For us, BC Sanyal will forever remain the grand old man of Indian art.
view all articles