Childhood & Early Life
Jamini Roy was born on April 11, 1887, in an affluent family of zamindars in the Beliatore village in the Bankura district, of then undivided Bengal.
Rich in folk art tradition, the village played a dawning influence on the mind of this budding artist who found his true calling early in life.
In 1903, at the age of sixteen, he moved to Calcutta to jo the Government College of Art, where Abanindranath Tagore, the founder of Bengal school, served as the Vice Principal. in
Under Tagore’s guidance, he learned the basic nuances of fine arts. He adhered to the age-old academic tradition of the institution of learning to draw classical nudes and oil painting. Following five years of training, he received his Diploma in Fine Arts in 1908.
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His initial career as a painter was deeply influenced by the Bengal school idiosyncrasy. He started off as a post-impressionist painter, painting landscapes and portraits but was highly displeased with his work as he found them to be dull, boring and uninspiring.
He took a de-tour from the then traditional route of budding artists, who generally brought to life the western customs on their canvas and looked to discovering his true passion and style.
It was while strolling through the streets of rural Bengal and passing through the popular bazaar paintings sold outside the Kalighat temple in Calcutta that he found his true calling. He found himself akin with this particular style of art that involved demonstrating Indian culture through dominant sweeping brush strokes.
Moving away from his earlier impressionist canvas, he was inspired by folk art and true Indian tradition. The move though rebellious, quenched his desire for painting and helped him get closer to his inner artistic impulses.
The period of 1930s marked the beginning of his glittering career as a painter, who abandoned the expensive canvas and instead switched to using indigenous materials and ordinary painting surfaces for his work which continued for the better part of the 1960s.
Instead of using expensive canvases and oil paints, he started using bold colors that highlighted the theme of local folk painting. His main aim was to capture the essence of simplicity that embodied the life of the folk people and bring out the same on canvas.
Since art then was an expensive mode of expression, his use of inexpensive material and stuff turned out to be revolutionary in more ways than one. His style not only made art accessible to all but also emphasized on highlighting the true identity of Indian art, free from any westernized concepts and traditions.
In his paintings, he mostly employed the seven radiant and promising shades that best described India such as red, yellow ochre, cadmium green, vermillion, grey, blue and white, most of which belongs to the earthy family or mineral colors.
He drew inspiration from ordinary men and women of the village and chose to re-invent on canvas popular images from religious themes of Ramayana, Krishna Lila, Chaitanya and Jesus Christ. He brought forth various poses and expressions of Sathal dance on his canvas, blacksmiths toiling at field, and so on
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In 1938, his paintings were exhibited for the first time in the British India Street of Calcutta. Breaking the conventional rules of painting, he became popular for his one-of-kind art form which grew on the popularity scale and enjoyed a supreme status amongst Indians and Europeans, who became his main clientele.
In 1946 his work of art was exhibited in the London and later in 1953 in New York City of America. Today, his paintings are exhibited extensively in the international exhibitions and can be found in various private and public collections across the globe such as the Victoria and Albert Museum, London
His style was unique given the fact that he adopted the neat patterning and rhythmic outlining to create sophisticated art form which was devoid of any ‘modern’ touch. His paintings highlighted his super control over brush and his rejection of the art-school modernity so as to highlight the true Bengali folk art tradition.
Some of his famous works include: Cats Plus, Cats Sharing a Prawn, Crucifixion with Attendant Angels, Krishna and Balarama, Krishna and Radha Dancing, Krishna with Gopis in Boat, Makara, Queen on Tiger, Ravana, Sita and Jatayu, Santal Boy with Drum, Seated Woman in Sari, St. Ann and the Blessed Virgin, Vaishnavas, Virgin And Child, Warrior King and Mother and the child.
Awards & Achievements
In 1934, he was felicitated with Viceroy's gold medal in an all-India exhibition for one of his work.
In 1954, he was conferred with India’s third highest civilian award, the prestigious Padma Bhushan by the Government of India.
Following year, he was made the first Fellow of the Lalit Kala Akademi, the highest honour in fine arts conferred by the Lalit Kala Akademi, India's National Academy of Art, Government of India.
The Archaeological Survey of India, Ministry of Culture, Government of India in 1976 declared his work amongst the ‘Nine Masters’ whose work was considered ‘art treasure’.
Personal Life & Legacy
Not much is known about his personal life and marriage excepting for the fact that he was blessed with four sons and one daughter.
He breathed his last on April 24, 1972.
Though Jamini Roy has long been gone, his paintings even today speak of his illustrious career as the first generation painter, who gave up on modernity and conformed to the nostalgic lyricism of Bengali folk painters. His paintings are present in the private and public collections across the globe.
The home in which he resided till date stands in Ballygunge Place area of Kolkata and is currently occupied by his successors, children, grand-children and daughters-in-laws.