The Paintings of Nandalal Bose

The Indian Constitution establishes crucial political codes, government structures, and civic responsibilities, alongside citizens’ rights, duties and directive principles. But beyond its meticulous drafting, there’s an artistic dimension to the original document. Were you aware that the pages of the original Indian Constitution are embellished with exquisite illustrations by Nandalal Bose - one of the key figures of Modern Indian Art and his students?

 

Chariot with National Flag (Picture Courtesy: Indian Culture GOI)


Gold leaf and stone colors were employed by the artist to gracefully illuminate the text. In addition to that, Nandalal played a pivotal role in designing the emblems for prestigious Indian honors like Bharat Ratna and Padma Shri. 


History has it that his mother, Kshetramonidevi, a homemaker with her modest knack for crafting toys and dolls for her children, catered to the imaginative mind of young Nandalal Bose. Bose soon developed a keen interest in shaping moist clay and Durga Puja Pandals. His innate artistic inclination was evident, yet his family wasn’t entirely accepting of his full immersion in this realm. It is said that he discretely learned artistic techniques from his cousin, Atul Mitra, during his artistic pursuit from his cousin, Atul Mitra. Eventually, he enrolled at the Calcutta School of Arts. 

 

This black-and-white picture of Gandhi became the symbol of non-violent protest (Picture Courtesy: National Gallery of Modern Art)


This linocut illustration portraying Bapu, holding his symbolic stick, vividly encapsulates the essence of his unwavering faith in his beliefs. Commencing on March 12, 1930, from Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, Gandhi initiated the historic Dandi March, famously known as Salt Satyagraha. This resolute move was a response to the unjust Salt Act of 1882, a legislation that restricted Indians from collecting and trading salt without paying tax to the British. Bose seems to be one of the earliest artists who subtly depicted Gandhi's determination to stand for his people against all odds.


Nurtured under tutelage of Abindranath Tagore, and Gagendranath Tagore, he not only imbibed their influence, but also was deeply impacted with India’s murals, notably the Ajanta Murals. While his artistic methods were quite seamlessly sophisticated and were even influenced by European techniques, Nandalal Bose remained acclaimed for his distinctive “Indian style”.

 

A village woman is seen churning butter (Picture Courtesy: Indian Culture GOI)


His artistic repertoire encompassed a diverse array of themes. His canvas ranged from deities and goddesses to portraying the unassuming lives of native folks- a mother nurturing her child, or the rustic scene of milk churning in the village life. 

Shiva drinking poison- the art represents a popular incident from Samudra Manthan.

 

Bullfighter (Picture Courtesy: Amazon)

 

Furthermore his art was’t confined, it extended to encompass a warrior brandishing his sword with pride and well-built wrestlers to “shehnai wala” (folks who are skilled in playing the shanghai and are often found performing at weddings, other religious ceremonies). This wide spectrum of themes underscored his artistic versatility, serving as a testament to his ability to captivate various subjects with equal mastery. 


Saraswati Picture Courtesy: Wiki Art)


In these two distinct artworks by Bose, we are presented with depictions of feminine figures. One image showcases Saraswati, the goddess of wisdom, with her fine curly hair, holding a veena instrument that stands as an embodiment of intellect and imaginative prowess. In contrast, the second portrayal featuring Rati, the Hindu deity of love, stands as a metaphor for passion and worldly connection.


Additionally, his artistic expression was notably characterized by his subtle utilization of empty spaces within his composition. This artistic technique of incorporating blank backgrounds finds its roots in Choku Pat and Kalighat Pat artforms. In 1922, he become the principal of Kala Bhavan at Tagore International University at Shantiniketan. This modern artist’s contribution to the contemporary Indian art forms was duly recognized through the prestigious award of Padma Vibhushan in 1954. The legacy of his profound creativity and unwavering spirit of experimentation continues to inspire and captivate.

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