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Jamini Roy

Due to a recent on-site inspection with a new client, our staff at MIR Appraisal Services began researching the famous Indian Modernist, Jamini Roy. A quick search of this artist revealed that his work is highly coveted in auction houses all over the world. Roy, with his emphasis on linearity and use of bold colored, mineral based paints, is considered the father of modern art in India.

Jamini Roy (left), Black Horse by Jamini Roy (right)

Jamini Roy began his artistic career, like many other artists at the time, with an education at the Government College of Art in Kolkata. While having been born in the Bankura District of West Bengal in 1887, his artistic style was quick to match the tone of the West due to British influence in India at the time. His education in landscape painting and portraiture also matched the British academic style, and while he achieved success and mastery in these techniques, he sought to break away from tradition and discover his own unique style that also paid homage to his heritage.

Untitled (Krishna with Cowherds) by Jamini Roy

Jamini Roy sought to reconnect with his Indian identity through further study of traditional Bengali folk art, terracotta friezes, East Asian calligraphy, and the Kalighat style of painting. The pracitce of Kalighat paintings, while founded in Kolkata in the 19th century, traditionally, were meant to depict ancient Hindu deities, mythological scenery, and characters and themes from everyday life. These paintings were done with homemade materials using mineral and vegetable based pigments, which is why they can often be recognized by their bright colors, bold lines, and patterns. These pieces were done on top of organic materials like woven cloth, scrolls, and wood. This style not only served religious purposes, but also captured India’s rural nature. Roy’s incorporation of this tradition into his work had not been expressed in the modern art world.

"Radha Krishna" example of Kalighat painting

Many people saw similarities in Roy’s paintings, to the Fauvist, Henri Matisse. Roy’s painting techniques began to change in the 1920s and gained full momentum by the 1940s, coinciding with the Western art world’s timeline of modern art advancements. However, Roy’s shift in style also matched with the rebellion of Bengal against the British, and the eventual independence India received from them in 1947. So while his artwork seemed to match that of other modern artists of the rest of the world, the reality was that Roy’s conscious style change decision was seen as an act of nationalism to his country rather than an act of modernity. Art historian, Krishna Chaitanya, in an interview on the artist’s life and influence, noted that Roy was “wholly in favor of making art meant for the collectivity and not just for the affluent few”, meaning that the artist found a beauty in India's rural nature that was deserving of artistic representation. For Jamini Roy, it was about expressing the beauty of his home and its traditions, and expressing its importance to the rest of the art world. His work can be found at major auction houses, and has been sold in places like New York, London, and Hong Kong. His artistic accomplishments are held in high regard throughout India, including a declaration from the Archaeological Society of India as one of the Nine Masters in 1976 and the Padma Bhushan civilian award for service in 1955.

Similar to an earlier blog about Zhang Daqian and his style comparison to the abstract expressionists, many saw strong similarities between Roy’s work, and that of the fauvists. Regardless of opinions on inspiration, Daqian and Roy helped familiarize the rest of the world with the artistic achievements of their countries. While popular Western styles often find inspiration in Eastern cultures, it is important to note that the East was also making significant contributions to the art world on their own terms. With long rooted histories and traditions to seek inspiration from, artists like Roy not only shine light on modern artistic developments, but also cultural history as well.

"JAMINI." Christies. Web.

Jazeera, Al. "Jamini Roy: A Painter's Quest for an Indian Identity." Arts & Culture | Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera, 11 Apr. 2017. Web.

"Kalighat Paintings: Well Recognized Form of Indian Modern Art." Utsavpedia. N.p., 10 May 2017. Web.

Nambiar, Sridevi. "A Brief History of Kalighat Paintings in Kolkata, India." Culture Trip. N.p., 01 Mar. 2017. Web.

Nambiar, Sridevi. "A Brief History of Kalighat Paintings in Kolkata, India." Culture Trip. N.p., 01 Mar. 2017. Web.

Pal, Sanchari. "Google Honoured This Indian Artist With a Doodle. Do You Know His Story?" The Better India. N.p., 11 Apr. 2017. Web.

Sanyal, Partha. "Kalighat Paintings: A Review." The Chitrolekha Journal on Art and Design. N.p., 13 Mar. 2014. Web.

Staff, FP. "Jamini Roy: Remembering the Artist's Six Best Works on His 130th Birth Anniversary." Firstpost. N.p., 11 Apr. 2017. Web.

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