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Devi Prasad Roy Chowdhury

Indian Modern Artist
Born 1899, Rangpur, Bangladesh
Died in 1975
Lived and worked in Madras, India

Devi Prasad Roy Chowdhary was one of the most renowned artists and art administrators of the twentieth century. He learnt his craft from various renowned personalities - painting from Abanindranath Tagore, sculpture from Hironomoy Roy Choudhuri, and portraiture from Italian Painter E. Boyess in India, London, and Italy.


Disciple of Abanindranath Tagore and Hironmoy Chowdhury, also studied in London and Italy

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UNDERSTANDING Devi Prasad Roy Chowdhury

Devi Roy Choudhary had a multi-faceted training in craft.

Born in the town of Tajhat in present-day day Bangladesh, his formal training in the Arts began in the Indian School of Oriental Arts, Calcutta, founded by Abanindranath Tagore. Devi Prasad trained under him in painting while gaining exposure to the set of styles and techniques that came to be known as the Bengal School. He learnt life-drawing and portraiture from the Italian painter E. Boyess and sculptures from Hironmoy Roy Choudhuri.

Portraiture, life-drawing, and sculpting were relatively conventional 'western' techniques when defined against the 'eastern' techniques and vision of the Bengal School. One can see these multiple influences coagulate in his work.

Devi Prasad Roy Chowdhury, Untitled 5, watercolour on handmade paper

Devi Prasad evolved his own language in his art.

His earliest works bear remarkable stylistic resemblance to Abanindranath, but in due course of time he developed his own unique style that was a combination of the techniques such as the Japanese wash, Chinese ink techniques and his own special scratching method.

He trained in painting as well as sculpture- one of the first Indian artists to sculpt in bronze, a popular western medium. The forms, medium and its handling became more naturalistic and iconic against the Bengal school's influence. While themes remained Indian - Rabindranath Tagore, the Triumph of Labour etc. - the use of Indian mythological or literary narratives declined, more in favour of contemporary life, events, and politics.

Devi Prasad Roy Chowdhury, The Triumph of Labour, 1959, stone, Marina Beach, Chennai

The Bengal School of Art served as a starting point and lasting influence upon Devi Prasad.

The Bengal School emerged as a strong nationalist movement in Indian Art in the early 20th century. Founded by Abanindranath Tagore, it stood for the revival of 'Indian' arts and crafts as opposed to the idea and practice of art that had been imposed by the west. Abanindranath during his training as an artist found the strict use of oils, scientific drawing and other aspects of his western-style training too rigid. He personally took to water colours. Rather than naturalistic forms and perspectives, he sought inspiration in different eastern formats such as the Japanese wash and Rajput and Mughal miniatures . When he founded the ISOA, the aim was to expose the students to the vast variety of indigenous art available in the oriental world. Inspiration was drawn from Indian themes- mythological and literary narratives from within oriental culture. Devi Prasad, trained under this school of painting, imbibed its values and techniques. He was adept in water colours, working with pencils and ink. His early works were full of Indian images, as can be seen below.

Devi Prasad Roy Chowdhury, Rasa Leela, watercolour on paper, 50.5 x 64.5 cm

D P Roy's array of works and methods is rather vast and unique.

He was equally at ease with paint as well as plaster. His sculptures vary significantly in material as well as size- busts, life-sized statues and larger-than-life, monumental works in both plasters of paris and bronze. His art is characterized by certain energy and vigour of forms, there is drama and movement. A uncommon practice of his was also his choice of figures from everyday life- the streets and bazaars of the common man rather than work with studio models. Devi Prasad's work shows his engagement with contemporary politics, introducing a unique form of nationalistic art. His paintings have been for their sensitive palette and romantic elements.

Devi Prasad Roy Chowdhury, Gandhiji’s Dandi Abhijan

Administrative career in art

Devi Prasad was not only a noteworthy artist, but also a renowned art administrator. After learning from Abanindranath at the ISOA he also went on to manage the institution for more than two decades. This was followed by decades as the Head of Department, Govt. College of Art and Crafts at Madras. He taught students like Nirode Mazumdar, Prodosh Das Gupta, and Paritosh Sen, (who later founded the Calcutta Group.)

After being an active member for years, he also became the president of the Lalit Kala Academy, the formal body representing and serving the interests of the fine arts in India after Independence.

Devi Prasad Roy Chowdhury, Untitled 2, sculpture, plaster of paris​