NEWS AND FEATURES

An artistic era is over


A recurrent subject in legendary artist Paritosh Sen's works was his depiction of scenes from everyday urban life. These activities, rendered from a detached perspective, formed the core of his artistic processes. He had stated: "The success of a painting lies in the artist's willingness to deal with each painting on its own terms."

One of India's best-known artists and one of the pioneers of the Indian Modern Art Movement, he died aged 90 after a short illness in the eastern city of Kolkata in October 2008. The artist was admitted to a local hospital with respiratory problems a month ago and had been on a life support system. A pioneer in modern art, he is survived by his wife.

He studied art in the southern city of Chennai and later in Paris, where he met Pablo Picasso who is said to have deeply influenced him. He traveled widely around the world. Accordingly, his style of painting underwent many changes on a constant basis. In fact, he was amongst the very few young Indian artists of his times to have had the precious opportunity to meet, spend time and interact with great modern masters of our time such as Pablo Picasso and Brancusi.

One of the leading Indian artists credited with having introduced modernism to Indian art, Paritosh Sen also dabbled with typography. He was commissioned by the French government to design Bengali typography based on the script of Nobel Laureate poet Rabindranath Tagore. The Telegraph newspaper of Kolkata wrote that he belonged to a ‘dying breed of artists... who were equally at home in sophisticated salons and also amidst the hustle and bustle of street life.’

A painter, illustrator, tutor and writer, Paritosh Sen remained a focal figure of the world of Indian art, for well over four decades. His more recognizable works were his caricatures, which reflected strong underlying socio-political shades and his female nude drawings. His style of representation was influenced by his exposure to Western Modern art, and has traces of cubism. "He was one of the major artists of this generation. He could look at human life with a lot of involvement," stated leading Indian artist KG Subhramanyam.

Paritosh Sen had a Diploma in Fine Arts from the Government College of Arts and Crafts, Chennai. In 1942, he and a group of friends formed the Calcutta Group, an association of artists that sought to incorporate contemporary values in Indian art in 1943. Looking to Paris for inspiration, he left for the art capital to study further, attending, among other institutes, the Ecole des Beaux Arts. He received a Fellowship for 1970-'71 from the John D. Rockefeller III Fund. A prolific writer, he penned many works in both Bengali and in English, including a series of autobiographical vignettes titled 'Jindabahar Lane'. All these experiences had a lasting influence on him as a painter.

The NGMA mentions of him as a humanist painter, who raised the issues of common, marginalized people to play the role of important protagonists in the drama of life. He is at his expressionist best in 'The Bag Lady' painted in shades of soft grays, it shows poignantly an American woman who does menial work experiencing her moment of 60 seconds fame. A figurative painter, he used bold lines against a two-dimensional picture plane to express his viewpoint on contemporary life. He often used two dimensional, structured planes but still created an illusion of voluptuousness. His drawings and paintings were noted for their strong lines and bold, stylized strokes. Although color was an important aspect of his paintings, it was the human figure, expressing a myriad of emotions that dominated his art.

view all articles