PROPERTY FROM AN ARTIST'S FAMILY
Oil on canvas
24 1/8 x 34 in. (61.3 x 86.5 cm.)
Signed in Bengali lower right anf faintly inscribd 'RIVER KOPAI/ 1946' on reverse
Ramkinkar Through the Eyes of Devi Prasad, The School of the Arts and Aesthetics, JNU, New Delhi, 8 October - 14 November, 2007.
A. Ramachandran, Ramkinkar: The man and the Artist, New Delhi, 2012, p. 94, illustrated.
Naman P. Ahuja, Ramkinkar Through the Eyes of Devi Prasad, exhibition catalogue, The School of the Arts and Aesthetics, JNU, New Delhi, 2007, p. 71, illustrated.
Ramkinkar Baij came from a family of hereditary barbers, but fortuitously, he was brought up in Bankura, a district of West Bengal, which was the regional centre for the sculpting of religious idols in terracotta. As a young boy, he observed the potters and sculptors working in clay, at times even working alongside them. He painted from an early period, making copies of Kalighat paintings and experimenting further in his own style. Ramananda Chattarjee, the editor for the Modern Review, was the first to recognise his natural flair for art, and encouraged him to leave the remote village in West Bengal where he lived to study in Santiniketan. The artist Ramachandran states, of his teacher and mentor, that 'his entire creativity was tuned to become an antenna to receive the minutest vibration around him, which made him a total artist. Santiniketan became a catalyst to trigger his creativity and raise it to a much greater height and sophistication.' (A. Ramachandran, Ramkinkar: The man and the Artist, New Delhi, 2012, p. 32)
Until his arrival in Santiniketan in 1925, Ramkinkar's paintings bore the influence of academic realism, but on joining Kala Bhavan his paintings show a greater affinity to the Bengal School style, which rapidly evolved into his own unique idiom. Whilst Ramkinkar is most celebrated today as a sculptor, he was also a skilled watercolourist, and unlike his contemporaries at Santiniketan he even painted in oil, breaking the associations that the medium had with the Western Academic style. Ramachandran notes that in his paintings he would create an almost 'relief like quality', carving out the image on the canvas marking the negative space with contours almost in the manner of sculpture. His preference for jute instead of canvas, and local paints over higher quality oil paints, has meant that sadly many of his canvases have not survived, but those that do, reveal a prodigious talent and a profound understanding of modernism.
'While a relentless effort was on for developing an Indian idiom that could relate to its traditional forms, Ram Kinkar sought his own direction without bothering about the past tradition [...] Instead of the wash technique he would use oil colours, dabbing Santhal wraps with packet colours from the local market thinned with linseed oil. He produced large figures with bold, broad strokes at a time when dainty miniatures were the hallmark of good taste. Out of the alienation from the formalism practiced at Santiniketan emerged a very personal style which had so much to offer posterity. Instead of drawing idealised and conceptualized figures, he studied "life" around him, thus introducing a bold and virile realism.’ (Sankho Chaudhuri, Ramkinker Vaij, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi, 1990, p. 5)
The current painting depicts the River Kopai that flows through West Bengal past Santiniketan. The subject is characteristic of the artist and reveals the close affinity that he had with his environment and the local Santhal people. Kishore Singh notes ‘his commitment to the Santhals was so strong, he refrained from occupying ‘official’ accommodation in Santiniketan staying instead in pastoral, thatched roof huts on the periphery of the university enclave, declaring his kinship with them. This proximity to the forest and the Khoai landscape across which the Santhals strode…were an essential element of how he saw himself as an artist, unfettered by the constrictions of a social order, free to paint or sculpt as he chose.’ (Kishore Singh, The Art of Santiniketan, New Delhi, 2015, p. 279)
About The Artist:
RAMKINKAR BAIJ (1906 - 1980)