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Hemendranath Mazumdar

Indian Modern Artist
Born 1894, Kolkata, India
Died 1948
Lived and worked in Kolkata, India

Hemendranath Mazumdar resisted the 'Indianizing' trends of the Bengal School to become a successful academic painter. Painting sensual women studies in various mediums is considered as his classical trademark. He tended to hint at nudity by draping his models in semi-transparent or wet saris, a technique that was later adopted and adapted by Indian cinema

Education

1915

Jubilee Art School, Kolkata

1910

Government School of Arts (GSA), Kolkata

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LIFE AND WORK

UNDERSTANDING Hemendranath Mazumdar

Mazumdar was a figurative painter trained in the European academic style.

Hemendranath Mazumdar resisted the ‘Indianizing’ trends of the Bengal School and adopted the European academic style of painting in Kolkata. In 1929, he founded the ‘Indian Academy of Art’ at his own residence, where he was actively involved in the academy’s activities along with other artists like Jamini Roy and Atul Bose.

He rejected the influences of the  ideals of Abanindranath Tagore’s Neo-Bengal School, despite being his close associate. He was acclaimed for his fine treatment of pastels, watercolours and chalks, though his real forte’ was in handling the medium of oil painting

Hemendranath Mazumdar's paintings depict the inner psyche of a woman

The sole presence of the solitary woman in his art is descriptive of the innate isolation of a woman. Each painting is a reflection of a fraction of time in her life when she had those moments exclusively to herself. His works venture into uncharted territory- the heart of a woman. It upholds those transient and passing moments when the woman, shorn of her many duties, gives herself entirely unto herself and acknowledges her being.

“The Study of Miss Shelly Gupta” is one such work that stands out in his oeuvre. This watercolour painting is accompanied with a note by the artist and the address of a studio in the top left corner. The joint addressees, Dr. Niranjan and Satish, and the subject obscured in anonymity tend to the possibility that this might have been a commissioned work. In this work, Mazumdar writes “I never felt my utmost necessity to make a live cast of a public dancer” and leaves the note unfinished with "continually they are untouchable but..." This work is the manifestation of unexpressed thoughts and internal predicaments of a woman.

Hemendranath Mazumdar, Study of Miss Shelly Gupta

Hemendranath Mazumdar, The Toilet

His main motif was sensuality.

One of the main motifs in his paintings was sensuality, rather than eroticism, and must be defined as a particular approach of perceiving the world. This technique can be described as sensual studies of women. Paintings of semi - nude females would not have been accepted by the Indian society and he adapted his works to suit the audience of his times. Mazumdar maintained a sense of aesthetic modesty in his works as he tended to hint at nudity by draping his models in semi- transparent or wet saris.

His paintings exuded such a sensual aura that even film-makers like  Raj Kapoor was said to be strongly influenced by Hemendranath's paintings. The cast in some of his films were dressed in a manner straight out of Hemendranath's canvases.

Hemendranath Mazumdar, Untitled (Manas Kamal), oil on canvas, 122.2 x 61 cm

Mazumdar depicted women in multi-faceted ways.

Mazumdar mostly painted only women. He portrayed the women of Bengal in partially draped saris, looking sublime in their natural surroundings. His models were mostly clothed in a similar manner – the plain, gold border saris, little motifs on snug and short blouses, gold arm bands and bracelets. The feet were bare, sometimes with hints of alta, a traditional design worn by married women on their feet.

He depicted the inherent beauty of a woman in solitude, where the relentless chaos of their daily life is paused in the quest for quiet introspection.It is in these moments that she allows her emotions a free play, where they dance to their own will, without bowing to the trend of calculated reserve.

Hemendranath Mazumdar, Untitled (Seated Woman), 1930, oil on canvas, 28 1/8 x 22”

He was proficient in the use of oil medium

Mazumdar was admired for his fine treatment of pastels, watercolours and chalks, but his real proficiency lay in the way he used the oil medium.  He produced several sketches and watercolour drawings on paper as his preparatory work before creating a full sized oil painting.

Hemendranath Mazumdar, Untitled, 20 x 12”