Remembering Sadanand Bakre

One of India's well-known artists and sculptors Sadanand Bakre, considered the pioneer of modern art in India and the founder member of Bombay Progressive Artists' Group, died at his home in the rural Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra. He was 87.

The veteran artist was one of India's famous contributors to the art form of sculptures and independent imagery. The Times, London, in 1961 had lauded him describing him as a sensitive individual and artist who does not go wrong with color. Strong, pure tones mix boldly and easily, with warmth in every picture, the essay had mentioned."

Born in 1920 in Baroda, Sadanand Bakre joined the J. J. School of Art in 1939. He was appreciated for his artistic skills and creations early in his career, and won several awards including those at the prestigious Bombay Art Society annual shows.

One of the founder members of the Progressive Artists' Group formed in 1947-48, it was he who along with the late artist, F N Souza, played a significant role in taking the contemporary art movement in India forward. This urge led to the formation of the Progressive Artists' Group, which was soon joined by other prominent artists like K. H. Ara, H. A. Gade, M. F. Husain and S H Raza.

The core of his art practice was to seek freedom from the restrictions of set styles and traditions of realism. Sadanand Bakre spent his teenage years in Mumbai at the studio of the then noted sculptor, Phadke. One of the artist's early sculptures, done in clay, was that of the elephant-headed god, Ganesh.

Art critic and scholar Rudi von Leyden acquainted the late artist with the modernist movements across America and Europe. This prompted him to critically review his oeuvre in backdrop of the global trends, patterns and parameters. This intense scrutiny and criticism of his own work helped Sadanand Bakre a great deal in evolving and developing as the master sculptor that the world came to recognize him.

Another important individual in Sadanand Bakre's life happened to be Wayne Hartwell who was associated with the United States Information Service in Mumbai at that time. The former offered the upcoming, struggling artist a place to work and experiment with art.

The most noteworthy aspect of his portrait sculptures was the character of the subject, more than his or her physiognomy, which found an expression. Amongst the busts he sculpted were those of the famous personalities, including Rudi von Leyden, Sir Cowasji Jehangir, the founder of the Jehangir Art Gallery, and his contemporary K.H. Ara.

Elaborating on his artistic philosophy, Sadanand Bakre had mentioned in an essay titled 'All Art Is Either Good or Bad'. He had then noted: 'I am traditionally trained and perfectly capable of accomplishing completely realistic work. But my interest in forms has gone far beyond the dull imitations of subject matter, which to me is almost unimportant.'

He produced a lot of good work before and after he went to London. In 1998, he returned to India. Except for non-commercial workshops which he conducted at Kashinath Salve's Mumbai based Art Academy, he chose to stay away from public life during the later stages of his life.

Sadanand Bakre opted to keep a low profile, and stayed away from public glare. Apart from painting and sculpting, he taught at the state Government initiated art school in Konkan for some time. He stuck to his principles and philosophy till the very end, which made the late artist stand apart as a great artist and individual.

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