ART GUIDE



art guide

Calcutta Group

The Calcutta Group of artists came into existence in 1943 as a response to the famine in Bengal that year which killed thousands of people in the countryside and provoked scenes that shook the conscience of the state. Other contributory factors were the effects of World War II, felt in the form of high prices, heightened political activity (Gandhi's Quit India call) and frantic troop movements. The situation seemed to artists in Bengal to demand a response from them which the Bengal School sensibility, whatever its other achievements, may not help adequately in generating.

The founders of the group were Prodosh Dasgupta, who was primarily a sculptor, and the painters Gopal Ghosh, Rathin Maitra, Nirode Mazumdar, Subho Tagore and Prankrishna Pal; they were later joined by Abani Sen, Sunilmadhab Sen, Gobardhan Ash, Krishna Pal, Bansi Chandragupta and Hemanta Mishra. The artists professed humanistic ideals and, in their work, attempted to show their sense of concern in a language that combined the Bengali pictorial idiom with the contemporary modernist manner. Gopal Ghosh, for instance, patterned his lines on the style adapted by Nandalal Bose of the Bengal School from Japanese and Chinese calligraphy. This was in keeping with the group’s manifesto which demanded that art should be "international and interdependent."

The group's work, exhibited both in Calcutta and Bombay received wide praise, including from the writers Mulk Raj Anand and E. M. Forster, and the critic Rudy Von Leyden. The latter wrote: "They have sought to imbibe a far more vital feeling from contemporary Far Eastern and European Art than their elders did. But this is not to suggest that they are in any sense imitative, for their love of the people and the old folk culture of Bengal roots them in the long Bengal tradition." (Marg)

The group held a joint exhibition in Bombay with the Progressive Artists Group in 1950, though F.N.Souza would later say he didn’t think the Calcuttans were doing anything "revolutionary."

(See Profiles of individual artists for more information).