Philadelphia Museum to showcase Nandalal Bose’s finest paintings

Ashok Nag
KOLKATA: Bengal School art is going places. The first-ever exhibition of Bengal School master Nandalal Bose is about to be unveiled in the US. A show comprising nearly 100 of the finest paintings by the artist will be opened at Philadelphia Museum of Art and remain on display from end-June to the beginning of September. The exhibit is being staged by the San Diego Museum of Art in collaboration with the government of India and National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), New Delhi. “Considered to be the father of modern art in India, Bose worked to regenerate and redefine India’s art during the region’s emergence from British colonial rule and its transition to an independent nation in 1947. The paintings on display were selected from nearly 7,000 of the artist’s works, all of which are held by NGMA which were gifted to India by the artist’s family. The exhibition marks the first time survey of Bose’s artworks — that are considered to be Indian national treasures — has travelled to the United States,” Darielle Mason, Stella Kramrisch Curator of Indian and Himalayan Art, said in an email to ET from the US. Mason said: “We are delighted to present this rare retrospective that examines one of South Asia’s great 20th century artists. While Bose’s art is inextricably bound to the story of India’s national awakening and independence, it is at the same time personal and nuanced. Although, he was highly influential to a younger generation of artists, his works represent an area of modern art that has been little understood in the United States. We are particularly happy to introduce these works to a broad public in the context of this museum’s fine collections of earlier paintings and sculptures from India.” Among the exhibition’s key works is an image of Mahatma Gandhi. The striking black and white linocut Dandi March, created in 1930, depicts Gandhi on the famous 248-mile journey that he and his followers took to make salt from seawater in defiance of British colonial tax. Bose’s image is now considered as one of the most iconic portrayals of the leader.
The section devoted to Gandhi also includes seven posters that Bose created at Gandhi’s request for the 1938 Haripura Session of the Indian National Congress. Bose used local materials, including handmade paper and colours ground and mixed from the earth. “The large-scale paintings celebrate Indian village life and culture in bright colours and lively scenes. Bose’s adoption of Japanese and Chinese techniques to illustrate India’s heritage, national pride and spirituality is evident throughout the exhibition. Many of these Asian-inspired paintings evoke scenes from nature. Bose also depicted traditional Indian religious icons in modern styles,” Mason said. Some of the works of this genre, in the show, embrace Flute and Drum Players, Darjeeling and Fog, Floating a Canoe, Dolan Champa, Saraswati, Annapurna and Sati.
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